College students can improve their GPAs and academic profiles by participating in study abroad programs all across the globe. And getting off campus for part of their education is an opportunity for growth, responsibility and maturity.

It’s a good idea to start researching opportunities a semester or two ahead of time. But with hundreds of programs, on all continents (yes, even Antarctica), to choose from, the choice is all theirs! Share these tips with your students for beginning their journey.

What’s it all about?

Study abroad programs generally provide college credits and count toward your major. The University System of Georgia conducted a 10-year study on academic performance of students who study abroad. In “Academic Outcomes of Study Abroad,” in Inside Higher Ed, Elizabeth Redden reported the study found that “students who study abroad have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, higher graduation rates, and improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups. They’ve also found that studying abroad helps, rather than hinders, academic performance of at-risk students.”

Why study abroad

Studying outside of the college classroom provides personal enrichment as well as academic advancement. This may become an opportunity to gain some professional development, self-confidence, and the ability to communicate with a variety of people in different contexts.

A good first step is to check with your advisor to learn about some of the study abroad opportunities others in your department have taken. They might be able to suggest options you hadn’t thought of.

Spending a few weeks or months in another country is also the best way to pick up that country’s language and culture. Students who want to improve upon or learn a new language should take advantage of study abroad programs to accelerate the process.

Check with your campus’s study abroad office for complete list of all the destinations and dates available to you. Believe it or not, some schools, such as Michigan State University, even allow college students who don’t attend MSU to apply for their study abroad program. So ask around and do your research. There is sure to be a study abroad program out there that is just what you’re looking for.

Have you participated in a study abroad program? Share your advice for choosing a location and getting the most out of the experience.