Here’s How Studying Abroad Gives You a Better College Experience

Ginger Abbot

Feb 28, 2020
does study abroad improve your gpa

We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.

Each year, more than 20,000 students in the United States study abroad. College students typically choose this route for the adventure, excitement and cultural exposure they’ll experience in another country — but did you know there are academic benefits of studying abroad, as well?

Compared to those who remain on campus, students who go abroad tend to have better school experiences and show improved academic performance. While in a new country, they tend to boost their GPAs, become more likely to graduate, expand their knowledge base and open up better career prospects. 

These advantages apply to all types of college students, especially learners with lower original academic performance. 

If you thought study abroad might interfere with your academic track, think again — here are the long-term academic benefits of studying abroad.

A Higher Grade Point Average

In research of study abroad GPAs, researchers compared the grades of students who went overseas to those who completed their full degrees at home. Before going abroad, learners’ mean cumulative GPA was 3.24 — after, it rose to 3.3. For students who remained on campus, the mean GPA only increased from 3.03 to 3.06.

reaping the academic benefits of studying abroad

Why does academic achievement improve for students overseas? One reason may be that they’re more engaged in their studies — because they’re more able to learn about a new culture while living in it. The educational experience doesn’t stop once they leave the classroom, either. Instead, each moment in a foreign country is an opportunity to learn something new. 

An Improved Graduation Outlook

Is it possible that those who study in a new country are more likely to complete a degree program? According to research, typical full-time first-year students have less than a 50% chance of graduating within six years. Students who study abroad during college, however, have a graduation rate of 88.7%. The effects of studying abroad hold true across gender, race and academic achievement. 

People who study abroad tend to experience a more diverse approach to learning, a concept that can encourage students to expand their knowledge and delve further into their academic careers. Once they return home, these learners can apply what they’ve discovered to other views and thought processes. 

More Post-Grad Employment Opportunities

Many companies seek employees with international expertise, such as individuals who study abroad in school. Increasing globalization has heightened the need for workers who can successfully operate in culturally diverse environments. According to one survey, 64% of employers consider study abroad to be important, and 92% look for transferable skills gained from the overseas experience. 

career and academic benefits of studying abroad

Once in a position, workers with international exposure tend to gain more trust and leverage. According to 64% of companies, graduates with foreign experience receive greater professional responsibility more frequently, implying that they trust these workers to make sound leadership decisions. 

Enhanced Understanding of Cultural Differences

Research reveals that voluntary study abroad activities highly influence students’ development of global and intercultural understanding. Learners who travel to other countries can improve their ability to work with people from different cultures. Plus, they can apply disciplinary knowledge to a global context. 

These changes can likely be attributed to study abroad students experiencing communities vastly different than their own. Whether in a new country for a semester or a year, they must adapt to changes in society, develop a new support network, overcome language barriers and much more.

cultural benefits of studying abroad

Greater Ability in Foreign Language Learning

When students study abroad, they immerse themselves in a culture that requires the use of another language to get around, communicate and survive. With increased stakes, it’s not surprising that students tend to pick up words and phrases faster than those who remain stateside. 

According to research, study abroad significantly impacts a student’s ability to learn at least one language other than their native tongue. The study suggests that learning in a new country is positively associated with development in linguistic competency in a foreign language. 

The Lifelong Academic Benefits of Studying Abroad

The academic benefits of studying abroad are far-reaching and extend beyond graduation. Research unequivocally concludes that scholars who learn in another country can boost their grade point average significantly. Students are also more likely to graduate, understand cultural differences and learn a foreign language. Once out of school, students who study overseas also see benefits in their careers, as many employers search for skills associated with experiencing international cultures. 

Are you a student considering a stint or semester abroad? If so, it’s worth it — and your grades will agree.

Written By