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Study Abroad: Not the advantage it’s often imagined

Copyright: Voyagerix

Part rite of passage, part badge of privilege. Proof of Europe and strategy for adapting to a globalising economy. Studying abroad is many things to many people. But is it effective?

Stine Waibel, Heiko Rüger, Andreas Ette and Lenore Sauer undertook a thorough review of the existing studies on studying abroad, paying special attention to career and employment trajectories for individuals from Australia, Europe and the United States. They find that, in general, perceptions of the effects—that is, the advantages—of their experience are not necessarily borne out by the data. Furthermore, Waibel and colleagues find that the maturity often thought gained while abroad develops equally under other circumstances. In fact, it seems more accurate to say it is a consequence of the usual ageing process.

Interestingly, the review nevertheless reveals that studying abroad can be particularly beneficial for people from weaker socioeconomic backgrounds or in precarious work. Ultimately, it’s clear study abroad is valuable, but perhaps it’s time to reckon in what way and for whom.


Original Paper: Waibel, Stine, Rüger, Heiko, Ette, Andreas, & Lenore Sauer (2017): Career consequences of transnational educational mobility: A systematic literature review. Educational Research Review 20: 81-98.