Why Do You Want to Study Abroad? 6 Tips to Inspire Your Essay16th June 2016Posted by: Amy Murnan
APPLYING to study abroad is a tricky thing, especially when it comes to answering that all-important essay question: why do you want to study abroad?
It sounds like a simple enough query, but try to write an answer and you’ll quickly realise how difficult it is. You may want to study abroad so you can ‘broaden your horizons’ and ‘see the world’, but with so many millennials yearning to travel, these have become clichés. In this article, we’re going to give you some tips on how to write your personal statement, and cogently explain exactly why you want to study abroad to your new university.
1. Jot down ideas – and be honest
Write down every genuine reason you can think of as to why you are studying abroad – no matter how silly or generic they sound. Is it because you want to travel and have fun, to work in a city connected with your industry, or simply because you want to escape? Maybe you want to re-discover a culture or family roots, or study with a world-renowned academic. The reasons can be professional or personal, big or small. It’s important to know your motivations before you begin, even if you end up dressing them up a bit in the actual essay. If you really don’t know your reasons, it might be worth re-thinking things before you apply – studying abroad is serious business.
2. Root out the most important
Have you ever read something that seemed to be trying to make too many points, or discuss too many topics, at once? It can be confusing to read, and by the end, it doesn’t really feel like you’ve gotten very far. For this reason, it’s a good idea to open your answer with one main reason you have for studying abroad – the thing that really gets you feeling excited and driven – and let this be the thread that ties your whole answer together. If no one reason jumps out at you, try looking at your notes and see if any of them have similar themes: professional success, personal growth, academic discovery, feeling ‘at home’ in a particular culture, wanting to make a difference.
3. Get specific
By now, you’re hopefully feeling passionate about your answer – now it’s time to flesh it out.
Admissions officers already know students like to travel, experience new things and further their careers; they hear this all the time. What they really want to know is what makes this relevant to them. What’s the connection between your desires and their university? Answering this question well will help you stand out from the rest, which is important for popular courses.
For example, many fashion students would love to study in Paris, for obvious reasons. But if your ambition is to become a knitwear designer, and the Parisian university you’re applying for is renowned for its expertise in this area, you can make a specific connection between your ambitions and this unique opportunity. It highlights that you’ll be a good match for the university, and furthermore, that you’ve done your research.
Where you come from can be just as important as where you're going when making these links. For example, our contributor Monserrat draws a comparison between the chaotic cities of her home country, Mexico, and the well-designed cities of the Netherlands, both of which inspired her to study Urban Management & Development in Rotterdam. Again, this demonstrates a specific connection between her ambitions, the course she chose, and the location.
4. Show off
Admissions teams like details – they also like evidence. A student might say they are a knitwear enthusiast, but it’s even more impressive if they have work experience or achievements to back this up. If you have some of these, great! Make a list of any relevant accomplishments so you can weave them in (no pun intended) for added impact. This could include competitions, academic scores, grades, participation in events or exhibitions, work experience, volunteering, special training or even personal milestones. You don’t need to mention every achievement you’ve ever had, but if it reinforces a point you’re making, it makes sense to use it.
5. Put it into paragraphs
Writing your answer in clear, coherent and not-too-long paragraphs is very important. Nobody likes reading dense walls of text, or long-winded essays that take too long to get to the point. Start your essay strongly with a compelling 1-2 sentence introduction that goes straight for the topic in hand: the main reason why you want to study abroad. Then, explain and build your case in the following paragraphs using the notes and ideas you’ve gathered so far.
There is no one way of doing this, but one good piece of advice I’ve learned is this: you don’t have to write things in the right order. If you can’t think of an original opening line straight away, or are having trouble with a paragraph, just come back to it later. By then, you may have a better idea of what you want to say.
6. Draft, re-draft, and proofread!
Hopefully you know by now that it is usually a bad idea to submit a first draft of anything; this definitely applies to your study abroad application. Unless you are a literary prodigy, you will most likely need to re-draft your essay at least once. Get as many people to read it as you can – parents, teachers, friends you trust – and heed their advice. If you’re writing it in a language other than your own, try getting a native speaker to look it over too. And, whatever you do, make 100% sure there are no mistakes at all in your writing. In the age of spellcheck, there really is no excuse.
Get more tips on studying abroad at our Student Life section!
10 Benefits to Studying Abroad
Studying abroad may be one of the most beneficial experiences for a college student. By studying abroad, students have the opportunity to study in a foreign nation and take in the allure and culture of a new land. Here is a list of the top 10 reasons to study abroad!
1. See the World
The biggest reason you should consider a study abroad program is the opportunity to see the world . By studying abroad, you will experience a brand-new country with incredible new outlooks, customs and activities. The benefits of studying abroad include the opportunity to see new terrains, natural wonders, museums and landmarks of your host nation.
In addition, when you’re abroad, you won’t be limited to traveling in just the nation in which you are studying – you can see neighboring countries as well! For example, if you study in France, you’ll have the option to travel through various parts of Europe including London , Barcelona , and Rome.
Another reason you might consider studying abroad is for the chance to experience different styles of education. By enrolling in a study abroad program, you’ll have the chance to see a side of your major that you may not have been exposed to at home.
You’ll find that completely immersing yourself in the education system of your host country is a great way to really experience and understand the people, its traditions, and its culture. Education is the centerpiece of any study abroad trip—it is, after all, a study abroad program—and choosing the right school is a very important factor.
3. Take in a New Culture
Many students who choose to study abroad are leaving their home for the first time. When they arrive in their new host country, they are fascinated by the distinct cultural perspectives. When you study abroad you will find incredible new foods, customs, traditions, and social atmospheres.
You will find that you have a better understanding and appreciation for the nation’s people and history. You will have the opportunity to witness a completely new way of life.
4. Hone Your Language Skills
Chances are if you’re planning on studying abroad, one of the major draws is the opportunity to study a foreign language. Studying abroad grants you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in a new language, and there is no better way to learn than to dive right in.
In addition to the considerable language practice you will get just in day to day life, your host university will likely offer language courses to provide you with a more formal education. Immerse yourself in a new culture and go beyond a purely academic experience
5. Career Opportunities
When you finish your study abroad program and return home, you will return with a new perspective on culture, language skills, a great education, and a willingness to learn. Needless to say, all of these are very attractive to future employers.
Many students find that they love their host country so much that they decide to seek work there. If you can relate, you will find that a local education will be very valuable when searching for a potential job in that country.
6. Find New Interests
If you are still questioning why to study abroad, you should know that studying in a different country offers many new activities and interests that you may never have discovered if you’d stayed at home. You might find that you have an as-yet undiscovered talent for hiking, water sports, snow skiing, golf, or various other new sports you may never have tried back home.
You’ll also have the chance to discover other new and exciting forms of entertainment. Plays, movies, dancing, nightclubs, and concerts are just a few activities that you can enjoy.
7. Make Lifelong Friends
One of the biggest benefits of studying abroad is the opportunity to meet new lifelong friends from different backgrounds. While studying abroad, you will attend school and live with students from your host country. This gives you the opportunity to really get to know and create lasting relationships with your fellow students.
After the study abroad program ends, make an effort stay in contact with your international friends. In addition to rewarding personal relationships, these friends can also be important networking tools later down the road.
8. Personal Development
There is nothing quite like being on your own in a foreign country. You might find that studying abroad really brings out your independent nature. Students who study abroad become explorers of their new nation and really discover the curiosity and excitement that they harbor.
A benefit to studying abroad is the opportunity to discover yourself while gaining an understanding of a different culture. Being in a new place by yourself can be overwhelming at times, and it tests your ability to adapt to diverse situations while being able to problem solve.
9. Graduate School Admissions
Like future employers, graduate school admissions boards look very highly on study abroad experiences. Students that study abroad display diversity and show that they aren’t afraid to seek out new challenges or put themselves in difficult situations.
Most importantly, students who have studied abroad show just how committed they are to their education. Graduate schools regularly look for candidates who will bring a unique aspect to their university. Students who have studied abroad have shown that they have the curiosity and educational acumen to be a leader in graduate school.
10. Life Experience
Why study abroad? For most students, this time may be the only opportunity they ever get to travel abroad for a long period of time. Eventually you will find a job and career, and the opportunity to study abroad may turn out to be a once in a life time opportunity.
Take this opportunity to travel the world with no commitments but to study and learn about new cultures. Studying abroad is an experience unlike any other.
Study Abroad Guide