You were a naïve little mongrel when you went and now you are a grown up professional! This is how my aunt puts it. I accept this ‘ compliment’ in all humility and just smile back at her. She reminds me of ‘ myself’ a few years back and I compare my ‘ then’ and ‘ now’. As a mature, responsible, learned, flexible and knowledgeable person, I thank the land of America (or put the name of your host land) for being such a wonderful host all these years (or months, please see your case).
Today, I am here to put my own feelings into words and I want all of you to know that how grateful I am to the ‘ study abroad program’ of ——university (mention your host university). Study abroad serves a variety of purposes such as learning about a different culture, broadening the mental horizon, extension of professional knowledge or improvement in language skills. I personally feel that I have become more independent and capable of managing my own finances. I learnt so many things here that I would never had learnt back home. The knowledge that I gained here will certainly increase my employment prospects. And above all, I have formed new and rewarding relationships and established network for my future.
Scientifically conducted studies on this issue also demostrate that once a student has been abroad for some time, he has gained experience in how to deal with people of different cultural backgrounds and with diverging ways of thinking, working or communicating (Behrnd and Porzelt 213). The international experience transforms the students and helps them to develop worthy skills in communication, critical thinking, social awareness and sensitivity to cultural differences. Study abroad is often promoted as an opportunity to use foreign language skills outside the classroom. Studies have also shown that students who spent a semester overseas had gained more conversational tools like conversation openings and closings, back channel signals, fillers, connectors and ways to obtain information in the non-native language (Wilkinson 157). I feel that if you are in a different country and try to speak the local language, you are more likely to be accepted by the native people.
Study abroad programs in higher education prepare the students for global citizenship. These programs offer innovative curricula beyond language acquisition and culture. Subject specific courses in the diverse fields ranging from humanities to sciences are offered in different countries and allow the students to acquire new knowledge while embedded in local communities (Denda 155). These programs are not only helpful for the students; they are also responsible for the comprehensive internationalization of the universities and institutions. These programs attract international scholars to the host universities and build cross-border research collaborations.
Study abroad helps the students learn to function in alien lands across national boundaries. As the society becomes more globally connected and as businesses require skills to work in multinational and multicultural environments, the study abroad programs become critical to the competitiveness of a country. During these programs, the students may also learn sophisticated research skills and innovative techniques (Denda 155).
Studies have shown that having been abroad increases the intercultural competence. One study says that by living abroad, many meta-disciplinary qualifications and intercultural competence develop. These qualities include self-assertion, self-initiative, decisiveness, flexibility and the ability for teamwork. Another school of thought says that intercultural competence does not automatically increase by simply being in a foreign culture. Indeed, there are several other factors that play a decisive role. It concludes that this competence and learning depends on student’s personal factors as well as on the characteristics of host culture (Behrnd and Porzelt 213).
Talking about the ‘ other side’ now; it is not always a smooth and rosy experience. Students often find the experience abroad more challenging than they had expected. Whereas their primary concerns are about language skills, once aborad, they notice that cultural differences, occurring while socializing with others, living together, or managing the daily routine, actually threaten their personal beliefs (Behrnd and Porzelt 213). Hence, study abroad programs lead to personal development even on very short abroad experiences. Study abroad experience profoundly alters the students’ cultural self-awareness and outlook on global political & social issues.
Actually the specific subject studied in the foreign lands is far less important than the very fact that the study is undertaken abroad. In a study at Oregon State University 97% of the students studying abroad reported that their experience was worth the cost with the added benefits being broadening their cultural perspectives, enriching their personal life and academic experience (Lumkes Jr., Hallett and Vallade 151). Classroom education also has a considerable value in delivering technical and background information about a foreign country or culture and adds a significant extra dimension to one’s personality (Lumkes Jr., Hallett and Vallade 151).
I learnt about environmental protection, sustainable agriculture and globalization here. I will cherish the technical, political, social and cultural knowledge that I learnt here. So, I would like to emphasize that in order to appreciate what we have, we must get out of our comfort zone and go to places where development awaits us.
Behrnd, V. and Porzelt, S. “ Intercultural Competence and Training Outcomes of Students with Experiences Abroad.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 36 (2012): 213-223. Print.
Denda, K. “ Study Abroad Programs: A Golden Opportunity for Academic Library Engagement.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39. 2 (2013): 155-160. Print.
Lumkes Jr., J. H., Hallett, S. and Vallade, L. “ Hearing Versus Experiencing: The Impact of a Short-Term Study Abroad Experience in China on Students Perceptions Regarding Globalization and Cultural Awareness.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 36 (2012): 151-159. Print.
Wilkinson, S. “ The Omnipresent Classroom during Summer Study Abroad: American Students in Conversation with Their French Hosts.” The Modern Language Journal 86. 2 (2002): 157-173. Print.