study abroad
Studying abroad is at an all-time high. Not only is it the latest coveted experience for employers, but studies have shown that studying abroad can have a substantial impact on one’s mind and creativity.

The role of learning a language pays off, according to the Huffington Post. Learning languages benefits the individual personally and professionally, as it increases one’s access to people, places, markets and ideas. Language formally benefits the environment through the ability to share environmental practices. Knowledge of another language also contributes to communication in the business and economic sectors. Language also contributes to political relations among governments and is indispensable in being assimilated into a new culture.

Learning a language can help an individual achieve his or her dreams in a variety of ways. Exploring a new language allows one to cultivate a more intimate experience when traveling, increases one’s accessibility to foreign recipes, art, literature and landscapes and can give vitality to new relationships.

To the delight of many students, scholars and societies, it has been recorded that learning a language influences the brain. A recent Swedish MRI study reveals that acquisition of a language increases the size of the brain, specifically in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex.

Recent studies have also concluded that bilingualism improves the brain’s ability to multitask, delays the onset of Alzheimer’s and promotes creativity. Language learning assists in other intellectual areas, specifically math and music. Each language provides insight into a different society or worldview.

The benefits of studying abroad surpass the benefits of just learning a language, although language is a key aspect of the international experience. According to the Institute of International Education, or IIE, “international students in the United States and study abroad by American students are at an all-time high.” The number of U.S. students studying abroad has more than doubled over the past 15 years.

The IIE claims that international education is one of the most important components of contemporary society. “International education is crucial to building relationships between people and communities in the United States and around the world. It is through these relationships that together we can solve global challenges like climate change, the spread of pandemic disease, and combating violent extremism,” said Evan M. Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. “We also need to expand access to international education for students from more diverse backgrounds.”

Studying abroad changes neurons, and it challenges one’s worldview in a way that may have not been previously acknowledged. Opportunities such as the Fulbright Scholarship, Critical Language Scholarship, Gilman Award and numerous others are renown for their prestigious international education programs. The focus on international education is steadily growing, and for earlier this year, the IIE launched Generation Study Abroad. This campaign aims to double the number of students who study abroad by the end of the decade, while increasing diversity and accessibility to international education.

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Institution of International Education, The Chronicle, The Diane Rehm Show, The Guardian, The Huffington Post 1, The Huffington Post 2

Photo: Honors Advising Blog

Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering abroad is a great way to make a difference while also exploring new places. The exposure to other cultures, languages, and ways of life creates mind-opening experiences. Waking up day-to-day in an area of need, one begins to appreciate the gifts of his/her own culture as well as appreciate the benefits of a new culture. The friendships made with other volunteers and community members are an added bonus. Here are just some benefits of volunteering abroad:

Utility Maximization and Altruism:

People, by nature, are utility maximizers who engage in certain behaviors in order to derive happiness and satisfaction. In this case, the certain behavior is volunteering. Volunteering instills a sense of “giving back,” or rather giving ones own resources (time, money, services, etc.) to help those less fortunate. Overseas volunteering is truly meaningful in this area. Leaving one’s comfort zone to venture to another country to help out makes this act of giving even more poignant. According to, anyone who decides to volunteer abroad must meet only one important qualification: the urge to make a positive change in the world.

Learn New Languages:

While volunteering abroad, every day is an opportunity to learn the native language. A stroll by a fruit stand is an opportunity to engage the attendant in conversation and learn new vocabulary, even if it is just learning the names of different fruits. Often times English speakers are asked to teach English as a second language which requires relearning grammar rules and usage. What could be so terrible about relearning subject-verb agreement? These better English skills can prove useful in the long run.

Eat Something Different for a Change:

Americans are accustomed to the usual selection of food that is inspected, regulated, processed and enhanced for flavor. Many foreign countries do not face these government expectations with their foods. Volunteers may try fruits, veggies, herbs and meats they never experienced before. Some meals are served fresher and are much cheaper than what most Americans are use to. Some foods are an unexpected treat, and others may be frightening—a fresh fruit with maggots, anyone? Nevertheless, a new menu can yield new favorites, new ways of cooking, and an appreciation for food in its simplest form.

The Cure and Better Manners:

Overseas volunteering is an excellent cure for the “ugly American” syndrome. Volunteers typically receive thorough education about gestures, body language, and conversation to avoid offensiveness. The lessons are a humbling experience and can make a volunteer think twice about how their behavior appears to others in their own culture.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: USA Today,