Americans, Consider Studying Abroad
Today I realized I am one of the most experienced at studying abroad in the world. Here’s my list of schools and countries I attended:
- Sunae Elementary School (Korea)
- Nakornpayap Internation School (Thailand)
- Mennonite Educational Institute (Canada)
- Overseas Family School (Singapore)
- Asia Pacific International School (Korea)
- Middlebury College (Unites States)
Every year, 1 million international students visit the United States (link). While different international students have their own reasons for studying abroad, I had two. The first was to cultivate a cosmopolitan mindset, and the second was to learn quality knowledge/skills. For similar reasons, I think the US today is the perfect time for Americans to consider studying abroad. The first is to reduce radicalism and the second is to learn cost-efficient knowledge/skills.
To Reduce Radicalism
Let’s talk about a global perspective. The US has been a global leader since World War II, which gave me a stereotype that Americans must have a global mindset. It only took me 1 week at college to realize that it is not true. In fact, the majority of Americans do not know or care about how people in other countries feel about America. I have a couple of episodes I experienced that shocked my American friends. Whenever I encounter an opportunity to share these episodes, I start with the warning, “Hey, just want to warn you ahead that what I will tell you can be a bit shocking.”
When I traveled to Pakistan in high school, there was a piece of headline news about the US. The news was that “A CIA Agent John Smith murdered two of our Pakistani police officers and fled the country. The agent assumed that those police officers were following him, so he brutally shot them down.” I am not fucking joking! This is what I heard from the news (of course someone translated Urdu for me) as a headline in Pakistan. Pakistan used this news (fake or true) to normalize the negative perspective towards the US.
When the US military killed the Iranian general Qaasem Soleimani (link), many people know that the airstrike killed the general. But the WeChat news that my Chinese friend showed me had something much more detailed about that “airstrike.” Apparently, the article said the missile was a highly brutal weapon that explosively spins sharp blades to kill everyone within certain parameters. China used this detail to portray the cruelty of the US military and the weapons they use.
As such, what I learned from visiting and living in different countries is that everyone is brainwashed in their own way by their national media. What is special about America is that American journalism is autonomous and free compared to the majority of other countries in the world. So people here do not understand that they are also heavily brainwashed in their own way, too.
Knowing that what I believed to be true can be false by other people is my definition of having a global perspective that one can earn by studying abroad. Being exposed to the media or journalism of different countries can really tell you how your own nation also provides you with a limited point of view. I am not saying this is bad, as I believe it is somewhat of a necessary evil to unite people and promote national collaborations. But the problem is that the limited perspective promotes radicalism. When this radicalism applies to international relations, unnecessary hostility sparks amongst countries.
Learning about different perspectives by studying in foreign countries can prevent people from having radical thoughts. When you see media portraying a sensitive issue and enforcing a one-sided opinion, you will think critically before making a radical judgment when you are aware of a chance that it can be wrong. Learning that what you considered true is not so true in different countries is, therefore, a starting point to reduce radicalism in this country.
To Learn Cost-efficient Knowledge/Skills
American college tuition is insanely high. My family had to sponsor me $70,000+ tuition and living expenses every year during college. This amount of tuition cannot be affordable for most people, and the solution for Americans can be to study abroad. Studying abroad has now become a very cost-efficient decision for many reasons.
Here’s the Estimated Average Cost of Undergraduate College by Country (link):
- Canada: $20,000- $45,000
- Germany: Free to $35,000
- United Kingdon: $17,000-$43,000
- Australia: $20,000 (public)-$45,000 (private)
Imagine you go to Germany, and with proper processes, even an international student like you can get a college degree for free. Compared to $50,000+ tuition for American colleges, those tuitions of other countries are such a Black Friday deal. And that is the fee without applying for any type of scholarship.
Unlike international students coming to the US who have to come with good English skills, Americans who want to study abroad have a lower language barrier to study abroad. One can simply choose to go to countries where English is their official language (UK, Australia, India, Singapore, etc.) or countries that have English-speaking courses (Netherlands, South Korea, etc.).
Also, academia and knowledge structure today has become highly universalized, so one can always come back home country to work. That is especially true when it comes to engineering, based on my experience. I have seen data engineers and software developers from Poland, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the US, each having an engineering degree from their home country, collaborate on building a single company product. My experience does not go beyond engineering majors, but that already shows studying abroad does not mean you have to work and live in that foreign country. You can always come back home to work after getting a degree.
With low tuition, low language barrier, and universalized knowledge structure, studying abroad is, therefore, very cost-efficient.
Studying abroad is not easy, don’t get me wrong. If you decide to study abroad, you have to be away from your friends and family which can make you feel lonely. The concept of moving to a totally different environment can freak you out. The education system can be different from an American system and you will need time to adapt.
Despite the potential hardships of studying abroad, the benefits are too great to ignore. Experiencing foreign prospects will be a life-changing experience for most of you, which may lead to reduced radicalism when it comes to making opinions about international relations. Also, studying abroad will be a great exodus from overpriced American tuition, as many countries provide such a cost-efficient college education.
So, Americans, consider studying abroad.