Whether overseas as a student, military personnel, foreign service worker, volunteer or retiree, the advantages of living abroad are numerous. The increasing number of Americans living abroad -- recently estimated at 6.6 million by the U.S. Department of State--demonstrates the appeal of living in another country. (See Reference 1)
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Advantages for Children
For adults, the decision to live overseas is usually voluntary. For children in tow and born abroad, the circumstances that subsequently alter the shape of their lives are more often involuntary. Dr. Ruth Hill Useem, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Education at Michigan State University, conducted a study on Adult Third-Culture Kids (ATCKs) in the early 1990s that revealed that people who spent at least one year or more of childhood outside of their home country were likely to have a higher level of education, and more advanced problem-solving skills and foreign language abilities. If globalisation and international understanding are any markers, these skills clearly put ATCKs at an advantage. Large numbers of ATCKs remain in contact with people from other countries, are involved as volunteers with international organisations, and expose their own children to the message that diversity is something to be celebrated.
Advantages for Young Adults
The number of Americans studying abroad--which has risen 150 per cent since the late 1990s--continues to set records, a trend made popular by the advantages of international education. IES Abroad, one of the nation's oldest, largest, and most reputable study-abroad providers, released a survey in 2009 covering one decade of their study-abroad alumni that touts the advantages of the experience. The majority of students claimed to have increased confidence, maturity, understanding of their own cultural values and biases, and acquired skills that influenced their career path.
Advantages for Adults
The advantages of living abroad as an adult are manifold. Famous artists and authors such as Pablo Picasso, Rudyard Kipling and Ernest Hemingway spent years dwelling abroad, causing many to speculate about the connection between creativity and living abroad. A May 14, 2009 article in "The Economist" cited a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that validated this link through two tests of creativity. The study concluded that those who had lived abroad were more likely to arrive at or negotiate creative solutions. No matter if the motive is educational, financial or personal, living abroad can provide a wider sense of the world and maybe an idea for a novel.
Living abroad is not difficult, and many people take advantage of the opportunity to work and live overseas at some point in their lives. Education, international understanding and confidence are skills that can be gained from the experience.
There are publications that cater to people wanting to live, study and work abroad. "Transitions Abroad" (transitionsabroad.com) is a magazine that shares personal essays, insight and opportunities. "Abroad View" (abroadview.org/webzine/index.htm.) is an online magazine specifically for students studying overseas.
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