I am of the belief that travel makes us not only better human beings but also helps us stand out to prospective employers. In my third year of college at the University of Puerto Rico I decided to apply to a study abroad program at the University of Havana in Cuba. Not once have I felt regret for going there and countless colleagues and prospective employers have been impressed by my résumé because of it.
However, traveling can be expensive and a daunting idea if you do not have at least some knowledge of the country that you’re are planning on visiting. That is why I think every student should apply to at least one student exchange program. Universities generally encourage their students to apply to study abroad programs and they generally offer plenty of information about schools and countries where these programs are available. If your particular school does not provide funding for your travel there are always other resources easily found on the internet. Websites like www.studyabroad.com and www.studyabroad101.com list scholarships as well as other interesting information about exchange programs.
One thing to keep in mind when choosing a destination is pick a university and place that has a good reputation for the degree that you are pursuing. You want to make sure that you are still learning at a pace similar the one at your school of origin. Another important criterion is choose a place that will make employers do a double take when looking at your résumé. So many American students choose universities in Europe when there are plenty of good programs offered in Latin America and Asia. I’m am not bashing exchange programs in Europe but if you decide to go to a country that is off the beaten path, you will stand apart from other graduates looking for work.
If you do decide to go to Europe, make sure to apply to well-known schools that will impress employers in the field that you plan on getting into. Also, really make the effort to immerse yourself in the language and culture of the place. I have seen so many exchange students not make the effort to meet local students. I too have fallen into this habit at times.
Nothing compares to the experience you will get from traveling and living amongst other cultures and languages. Remember that yes, you should have fun but wherever you choose should be because you are passionate about a particular school or culture. Even if you are not exactly sure about what you want to be professionally, choose a place that will make you grow—that pushes you to think differently about the world. If you do it right, it will be a gift that keeps on giving for the rest of your time at school and well into your career.
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