Two Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad, And Two Reasons Why You Shouldn’t


The number of students participating in global experiences at Michigan Ross is at an all-time high.

More than 1,100 students studied in 45 different countries last year alone! And they took some amazing pictures during their studies; check these out.

Our Global Initiatives team has assisted countless students as they navigate the full semester exchange process and the Ross global courses in recent years. (For a better understanding of available study abroad options, see our Global Experiences page.)  

We believe studying abroad is one of the most valuable educational experiences a student can have. Or, at least it can be if approached in the right way.

I recently spent nine months in Barcelona on my sabbatical, studying and working at IESE, the top European business school in Spain. I want to share with you a bit about those experiences along with a couple of reasons why you should definitely consider studying abroad — and a couple of reasons you shouldn’t.


.....To Expand Your Understanding of Global Business

Every one of our students who graduates and enters the business world will be working in a company with global partners, global offices, international supply chains, multinational headquarters, or some other global component to its business. At the very least, they’ll have international colleagues.

Being successful in business means having an understanding of business in the global context — our global programs help students gain that insight and prepare for a career interacting with people from countries all over the world. There is no substitute for being on the ground and studying a new business culture firsthand.

.....To Become Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable

A phrase Ross students end up hearing a lot during their studies is “dealing with ambiguity,” and that’s for good reason: A lot of business is uncertain and a Ross degree equips students with the tools to make good judgments.

The same is true for traveling to foreign parts of the world. Being abroad really brings into focus the usefulness of experiencing what I’d call “everyday” moments.

Getting around on public transportation you’re unfamiliar with, dealing with visa or travel problems, managing foreign bureaucracies, or negotiating in a local farmers market over the price of fresh figs … these may not seem like huge educational opportunities at first glance, but there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with mastering these “everyday” tasks.

They challenge you to deal with ambiguity and practice your problem-solving skills, which are essential for any successful business leader. Attacking new challenges with a sense of confidence is a quality employers and peers will admire. Employers tell us that they value the resilience and confidence they see in students who have been immersed in non-U.S. cultures.


.....Because You Want to Move Your Social Circle to Another Country

Hey, I get it. Hanging out with your friends from back home in a foreign city sounds really fun. But to get the full value out of global travel, you need to experience what it’s like to be a fish out of water to be truly independent.

When you’re the only American in a class of foreign students, you will interact with the world differently. This is a time to force yourself outside of your comfort zone, and having a built-in group of friends can limit the chances for those genuine cultural moments.

.....Because You Want an Excuse to Collect More Passport Stamps

Students often have the urge to use every weekend during a global study program to travel to a new city. But, chances are, spending time exploring and getting to know your host city will be more rewarding than constantly being a tourist.

I discovered so many hidden treasures around Spain and many surprises just from spending time exploring the streets around my apartment in the La Ribera neighborhood of Barcelona last year. Being a tour guide to visiting friends and family — and little moments like being asked for directions by tourists who think you are a local or being a “regular” at the cafe on your block — is satisfying, in part because you realize that you really are getting to know a place and the culture.

Explore where you’re living and you will find the things they don’t write about on tourist websites.

At Michigan Ross, we believe strongly in the educational power of global travel and study. In the last few years we’ve made significant changes to our curriculum to create the space and time so we can encourage students to study abroad, and we have a great number of options for you to choose from. If you follow these tips, you’ll not only get the most out of your global experiences, but you’ll be prepared to enter the workforce as a well-rounded, global businessperson.

Norm Bishara
Norm Bishara
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs

"Take risks that demonstrate you can take on challenges & bounce back from failures."