An international education, be it a semester abroad or a full degree program in another country, can be one of the most rewarding and exhilarating experiences in a person's life. There is much to be gained from learning a new culture, experiencing new challenges and opening your mind to a whole new world. Although the events of September 11th may have had repercussions to hinder this, it also spells out the need for more students to study abroad so cultures can mix and create a greater understanding among nations.
In the USA alone, 2000-01 saw the greatest increase in foreign students to their shores since 1979-80, with 547,867 foreign students studying in the USA. More than 34,220 foreign students chose to study Fine or Applied Arts in the US, while 12,283 US students left the States to study Fine or Applied Arts in other countries.
The biggest barrier to students studying in the USA is money. The average for a low-cost private institution costs $12,000 US Dollars a year, excluding living expenses. This of course can be lower or higher depending on the school, but for international students, this is a huge burden and one that stops many from attending. However, it need not be an obstacle, with international student loans now available and a wealth of scholarships and resources for students to utilize.
Along with the cost, admission to top schools in the USA can also be extremely competitive and require advanced planning; application forms need to be completed, test scores need to be produced, and some may require application essays or letters of recommendation. This at first may seem a daunting prospect, but students should not be put off. Hard work and planning are the key factors for students wishing to come to the USA. Students need to obtain the best grades possible and plan well in advance (at least 18 months) and this will give them the best chance to study in the USA.
For US students to study abroad, the obstacles are not as great as for those wishing to come to the USA and since September 11th, there has been greater emphasis by US students to study outside the USA. As Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute for International Education, states "Even more heartening is the enthusiasm and interest among students in gaining international experience after the terrorist attacks of September 11th". In 2001, there was an 11% increase in US students studying abroad with the majority of this increased coming in shorter (less than 8 weeks) programs. In part, this has also been due to the popularity and success of companies such as The Council for International Education, Semester At Sea and InternationalStudent.com who specialize in helping students achieve their study abroad goals.
Studying abroad can do so many things for an individual. On the personal side, students are able to experience new cultures, religions and new ways of thinking thus enhancing their acceptance and tolerance of minorities and their outlook on life. On a professional level, it can enhance their career by exposing students to a variety of new perspectives, the latest technology or state of the art research and training. There are so many benefits from spending time studying abroad, and arguably the most important benefit is to create a better understanding of the world around us.