Study abroad leads to personal, professional growth

Oakland University students have the opportunity to participate in more than 300 study abroad programs in about 50 countries, according to International Education.

Participation in study abroad can lead to personal and professional growth, according to both International Education and Career Services.

“It really broadens your experience,” said Alex Zimmerman, director of Study Abroad/International Education.

Students who study abroad tend to return with more self-confidence and a stronger idea of what they want professionally, Zimmerman said.

International Education provides resources to guide students through the preparation process. Student advisers who have already studied abroad help students decide where, when and what to study while abroad, said Cynthia Weil, assistant director of Study Abroad/International Education.

Employers also like to see that job applicants have studied abroad, said Amy Ring Cebelak, career consultant at Career Services.

“Everyone who goes comes back on top of the world,” she said.

While study abroad is most important for students who want a job where they use a second language every day, any study abroad experience shows an employer that the applicant has transferrable skills such as adaptability, appreciation for culture and an ability to communicate.

Many companies are increasing the diversity within their workplaces, working with companies in other countries and opening branches around the world. Having lived in a different culture shows employers that an applicant would be comfortable and productive in a diverse environment.

For these reasons, study abroad experiences should not be minimized. They can make up a portion of a resume, Ring Cebelak said.

The initial steps of the application and account-making processes on OU’s website are similar. Later steps may differ, as different programs require different information, but the study abroad office tries to make the process as straightforward as possible and is available to help, Zimmerman said.

There is a program for everyone, Zimmerman said. Students who are not studying a foreign language can study abroad in an English-speaking country or take classes abroad taught in English while learning basic linguistic skills in the country’s native language. Programs also have staff who can help students.

Students can study abroad for as few as two weeks or as long as an academic year and still reap the benefits, Weil said.

“Any length of program can provide a global experience.”

Weil said that students tend to spend an average of $1,000 a week while on a study abroad trip. However, Zimmerman explained that some places have such a low cost of living that students end up spending less money abroad than they would taking classes at OU.

Scholarships and grants are available through the study abroad office and other offices, Zimmerman said. The office also helps students apply for national and international scholarships.

Zimmerman encourages every student to at least look into study abroad options.

“Doing something like this helps you figure out who you are,” he said.