Skip The Gap Year & Study Abroad: Why Spending A Semester Or Two Studying Overseas Is A Better Move

It’s no secret that Australians love to travel and the tradition of having a “Gap Year” overseas before or during your studies is somewhat of a national institution. While getting out of Australia and experiencing new countries and cultures is undoubtedly one of the most personally enriching experiences in life, it’s not without its setbacks and sometimes can leave you a year behind on getting that shiny degree of yours.

Luckily there is a better way to see the world while still keeping on track with your studies: studying abroad. Universities all around the world have programs to take in Australian students for a semester or two and institutions like our own Swinburne University of Technology can place you in universities across the globe, from Canada to Hong Kong, Switzerland to the United States.

But you’re not convinced yet, I can tell. That’s why we’ve put together this useful list of reasons for why spending a semester or perhaps two studying overseas is a better move.

1. The Government And Uni Can Help You Pay For It

Not all students will be eligible for this, but if you are already receiving Austudy, the government will keep paying it while you are on exchange. While it’s not going to fund your entire time abroad, thankfully the program still allows you to work part-time for extra income like you can here at home.

But, hey, if you pick a country with a favourable exchange rate, you could be living the high life of an ex-pat while working toward your degree, rather than paying out of your own pocket to schlep it around backpacker dives and tourist traps! On top of that, there are also scholarships and loans you can apply for, with Swinburne offering a comprehensive list of the various options available here.

2. You’ll Actually Get To Know The People and The Culture

Let’s be real for a second. While travelling on a gap year, you tend to spend more time in bars speaking to other tourists than actually getting to know the locals and experiencing their culture. If you are on exchange though, you are already part of the local culture by being a part of the university. Not only will this open up a whole range of personal and cultural experiences you’d otherwise miss out on, it will also probably lead to invites to local parties, where you can meet people who were actually born and live in that country, versus someone from Melbourne or Sydney.


3. Looks Great On Your CV

While no one is going to look at your CV and be impressed by that season you spent working in a Canadian ski resort, studying abroad, on the other hand, can make quite the impression. Firstly, it shows you can dedicate yourself to something – they don’t give exchange placements away after all. Beyond that, it shows any prospective employer that you are capable of dealing with new situations and that you are open to new ways of life and new ways of thinking.

4. You Can Start Building An International Network

Hitting the tourist hot spots might be a great way to meet fellow travellers, but the chances of meeting someone who’ll be able to help you in your future career are rather small. If you’re studying abroad, however, you will literally be in rooms filled with people studying in fields similar to yours, meaning you’ll be able to start building an international network of people you can draw upon once you move out in the real world.


5. It Will Help You Learn A New Language

Anyone who has ever tried learning a language from classes and online tutorials alone will testify that the biggest challenge is finding people to practice with. One great way to solve this problem? Go the country where said language is spoken. Even better, take language classes while you’re there.

Think about it. You could be one semester away from chit-chatting “en Français” over an aperitif or discussing eastern philosophy in Japanese. If you’re a little hesitant about diving in at the deep end, never fear, as in the case of Swinburne, all its partner universities offer classes in English, as well as introductory language courses for students who want a gentle immersion instead.

6. Get A Global Perspective On Your Field

Australia is an amazing country, but it wouldn’t be controversial to say that we are still pretty isolated in a lot of ways. Studying abroad is a great way to get an international perspective on your chosen field. Not only will this help you position yourself well in regards to the ever changing demands of the modern employment market, it will also potentially allow you to bring some new ideas back home. If there is one thing this country loves, it’s an Aussie who’s made it overseas and shares their success back home.


7. Live A Life Like Josh Collins

‘Who?’ you ask. From growing up on a cattle farm in regional Victoria, Josh Collins now works as Global Startups Executive for Web Summit in Dublin. Web Summit is the world’s largest technology conference, and the same one that helped companies like Uber become a global revolution. And to think, it all started with a semester abroad in Ireland.

8. Exchanges Aren’t Just For Undergrads Anymore: Research Overseas

Conducting research abroad is a great option for anyone who might already have a degree but still wants to further their study overseas. Providing a challenging new environment in which to pursue your study, and working with international specialists in your field, you will be building your knowledge and your relationships while also practicing cross cultural communication skills. Swinburne offers a range of different research degrees and projects to choose from too, meaning there is a program to suit almost everybody’s needs.


9. With Study Tours You Don’t Have To Commit To A Whole Semester

Spending a whole semester overseas can be a daunting prospect and quite a commitment. Also, not everyone is able to spend that much time away from home. Luckily for them, study tours are a thing! Running anywhere from two to six weeks, study tours are like super condensed exchanges where you and a group of fellow students combine travel, study and workplace experience in one. Swinburne have a huge list of upcoming tours you can apply for here, and you can also check out this album from their recent Asia Pacific Rim Study Tour.

10. The University Will Plan It To Make Sure You Get The Most Out Of It

That’s right, the uni will actually help you plan your exchange, walking you through various options and giving you choices to shape your experience to suit both your travel tastes and career goals. With as many as one fifth of foreign exchange students having never left the country before studying abroad, universities like Swinburne have an entire office dedicated to helping you sort through all the noise of international travel – i.e. what visas you might need, or if you need to get vaccinations – so you can craft the perfect exchange experience for yourself.


11. Go Straight To The Horse’s Mouth

Verify it for yourself. Head to Swinburne’s Advice Nights on 11th September in Wantirna and 13th September in Hawthorn to learn about applying, ask about courses you’re interested in and what overseas study options you could have!