Independent Research Measuring the Impact of Study Abroad

While more research is still needed in this area, researchers who have measured the impact of study abroad and other international learning experiences have found that they have a positive impact on academic, educational, and professional outcome measures.

Study Abroad Improves Completion, Retention, and Transfer Rates

Far from the fears that studying abroad will delay a student’s graduation, multiple large-scale studies have found that students who study abroad, especially underrepresented or “at-risk” students, are more likely to complete their degrees or certificate programs than students who did not study abroad. Community college students were more likely to transfer to a 4-year institution than students who did not study abroad. First and second year retention rates for those students who study abroad are also considerably higher.

Study Abroad Improves Grade Point Averages

Several studies have shown that students who study abroad have a higher GPA than similar students who stayed on campus, even when controlling for external factors. This impact is even more pronounced for minority and at-risk students.

Study Abroad Improves Language Learning

According to the Pew Research Center only 25 percent of American adults can speak a language other than English and only 7 percent of those adults learned that language in school rather than in their childhood homes. Compared to the 90% of European high school students who are learning English, U.S. students are woefully underprepared to meaningfully interact with colleagues and competitors from around the world. Studies have shown that students who study abroad made greater gains in language proficiency than students who studied the same language domestically.

Study Abroad Fosters Intercultural Understanding, Provides a Global Context, and Builds Enlightened Nationalism

Studying abroad is a unique and transformational learning experience. Students who have studied abroad are better able to work with people from other countries, understand the complexity of global issues, and have greater intercultural learning. One study found that students returned from their study abroad experiences more tolerant and less fearful of other countries, but with a greater sense of nationalism—a phenomenon they called "enlightened nationalism."

Study Abroad Increases Employability and Career Skills

It is hard for any study to definitively state that one experience leads to a better job or higher income. However, multiple surveys have shown that the skills gained while studying abroad are the same skills that employers value and that employers recognize the importance of cross-cultural understanding in an increasingly global economic environment.