Austrian student Kathi Schedl came as an exchange student in 2015, and 10 months later she left what had become a second home in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Back home in Austria, Kathi wrote a school essay answering the question, “Is it worth it to spend a year studying another country?” In her compelling response, she so beautifully articulates her experience, and so artfully summarizes all that we value about international education! Thank you, Kathi, for helping us celebrate International Education Week!
Is Studying Abroad Worth it?
By Kathi Schedl
Every month, masses of people stream into schools around Austria, accumulating in little groups around information desks hosted by local and foreign organizations. But is the wait, the bombardment of information, and the heavy weight of all the prospects and brochures really worth it?
As I experienced, a year abroad has countless benefits! In addition to becoming fluent in a foreign language, it leads teenagers to independently act for themselves and removes stereotypes that are usually set into their minds at an early age. Therefore, it does not only guarantee students a brighter future, but also a broader mind and a positively changed attitude towards foreign countries.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Therefore, it does not only guarantee students a brighter future, but also a broader mind and a positively changed attitude towards foreign countries.[/perfectpullquote]
When studying a year abroad, teenagers do not only learn another language, they are taught to appreciate another way of life. Luckily the importance of learning another language is well known in most communities in Austria and therefore at least English is commonly taught in schools. Unfortunately, the way of interacting with native speakers, with the right gestures and mimics typical of that language, is likely to be forgotten during the teaching process.
To actually embrace another language, and learn to speak it fluently, one has to adopt gestures and mimics. The art to communicate with people from different cultures and countries will serve young people in their futures, no matter where they will go and what they will do.
For example, somebody growing up in Austria might only know German. If he or she is lucky and they are being taught a foreign language, the student might not welcome that. But by studying a year abroad, one has to open one’s mind towards slang words and sayings. This way, speaking a foreign language will not only be more bearable, it will suddenly be fun. It will be like a door, leading to acceptance of other cultures and the start of a new life. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It will be like a door, leading to acceptance of other cultures and the start of a new life.[/perfectpullquote]
But it will also be door to a brighter future, since the job prospects of this young kid will undoubtedly improve and all the future employer’s requirements will easily be met.
Teenagers leaving to study abroad that are driven by wanderlust and curiosity of the unknown will come back as adults. Building up a new life, adjusting to another family and aclimating to a new school are all situations that are not easily dealt with, even for adults. So for teenagers this is an extraordinary, enriching and enthralling experience that should not be underestimated.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] [The student] suddenly has to act independently and make decisions on his or her own, gaining self-confidence and kindness. [/perfectpullquote]
Extraordinary, because the teenager suddenly has to act independently and make decisions on his or her own, gaining self-confidence and kindness.
Enriching, because the knowledge of another language and the open-mindedness towards other countries serves for a bigger purpose in the student’s future.
Enthralling, because while academically advancing through the addition of a language and broadening one’s horizon, studying a year abroad is also enjoyable.
Once one is accustomed to the thought of leaving one’s comfort zone, the greatest activities and opportunities are just waiting around the corner. All in all, a year abroad leaves the teenager as a well-rounded, tolerant and approachable (practically) grown-up.
A global view does not only eliminate stereotypes, but leads teenagers to a broader understanding of the world and it’s issues. An insight into other countries with unfamiliar customs, unexplored perks and new beliefs. They learn to love another life, and see how different lives of kids the same age can be. Whereas today our world leaders might be leaving a mess, it is on the younger generation to clean that up. And with an awareness of other countries this can only result in a successful path to a better and safer world.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]And with an awareness of other countries this can only result in a successful path to a better and safer world.[/perfectpullquote]
All in all, students immensely profit from studying a year abroad. Another language promises them a brighter future and an improved way of interacting with foreign people while it also opens their minds. They will learn to act independently, for themselves, and how to make crucial decisions which automatically makes the kids more self-confident and grown-up. And lastly, teenagers with a broadened horizon and a global view will later make enormous contributions to the world, and they will successfully make it a better place.