Pang Shenglong is well aware of the fact that studying abroad might not be a good investment. After all, with the global recession still ongoing, job applicants with a foreign diploma have no edge over their domestically trained peers.
But for those already studying abroad and who want to pursue a foreign education, the opportunity to expand their horizons outweighs any financial concerns. Experts say that studying abroad has become a less pragmatic decision in recent years, with students emphasizing their personal development rather than seeing it only as an “investment” in their employability.
“Photos in textbooks can’t give you the feeling of standing under the Eiffel Tower,” said Pang, 24, a postgraduate majoring in civil engineering at the University of Nantes in France.
Apart from studying, living in a foreign country is more about seeing the world.
By traveling to Italy, Switzerland and Denmark during the holidays, Pang said he gained a deeper understanding of European culture.
“Studying abroad can be a life changing experience as you have to deal with everything in a completely new environment,” said Xie Shaoyuan, marketing director of Education International Cooperation Group.
“By adapting to, communicating with, and understanding a different culture and people, students can renew their attitude toward studying and life, which has a lasting impact on their careers and personal lives,” Xie said.
Chen Zhe, 22, a senior majoring in finance at the University of Edinburgh, agreed. Chen’s experience of living in the UK and experiencing new cultures, traditions and people made him realize the significance of preserving his own cultural traditions and identity.
“Before I left the cultural environment I was familiar with, I thought some of our holiday traditions were unnecessary,” said Chen. “But by being exposed to so many new traditions, I’ve begun to understand the significance of keeping our own traditions alive.”
Besides traveling and integrating culturally, learning how to study is vital for Liu Chang, 25, a law student from Fudan University who is currently on an exchange year to George Washington University in the US.
“Apart from what is taught in the classroom, I have also benefited from self-education,” said Liu.
Since China and the US use different teaching methods, each of which have their own advantages, it is important for students to make the most of their different learning environments and acquire a wide range of knowledge.
“I can learn by talking to my Mexican roommates about their country, or by talking about soccer with my British friends,” said Liu. “Studying abroad always offers me chances to learn something new.”
Xie thinks that in terms of the investment, studying abroad may not be as financially rewarding as it was a few years ago. But the connections and the new worldview developed through this unique experience will pay off eventually.
“Instead of direct financial benefits, the edge of having international experience and a new perspective on life is even more precious,” said Xie.