April 21, 2017

Do the benefits of study abroad justify the difficulties?

The benefits of study abroad indeed justify any potential difficulties: an opportunity to study a new culture and language, make new friends, and explore sights unseen is an irreplaceable experience. Before studying abroad, a typical student’s experience of her chosen foreign language is limited to the classroom, creating a sort of artificiality to the language; it is nearly impossible to fully realize and appreciate the beauty of a language without hearing it in action in its native land. There is something about living, speaking and breathing, for example, Spanish in Spain that removes that very artificiality surrounding learning the language in a classroom. The student will come to see that language not just as not just a catalogue of verb tenses, but something the man reading the newspaper on the subway or the woman drinking a cocktail at the bar uses to talk about both the mundane and the extraordinary.

Furthermore, studying abroad provides the opportunity to experience a contrast of cultures in an unknown or new environment. Living independently in an unfamiliar land provokes a kind of culture shock, immersing the student into a culture that will inspire her to more fully empathize with her chosen language of study, to appreciate the multi-faceted nature of an increasingly global world. When then faced with the mission of using her foreign language both to engage in intellectual challenges in the classroom and to complete the tasks of daily life,  naturally, though slowly, she will come to “think” in her foreign language. Such an experience will help forge new bond between the language and the student, guiding her transformation into a more native speaker.

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