Increasing numbers of students are choosing to study abroad. To what extent does this trend benefit the students themselves and the countries involved? What are the drawbacks?

Studying abroad has become increasingly common in the last few years, especially for young people from countries such as China and India. Many students and their families clearly consider the experience worth the sacrifices involved. The former often give up friendships when they move abroad; the latter often use their life savings. Moreover, many governments are willing to invest huge sums of money in sponsoring their young people to study in universities overseas. However, this trend has drawbacks as well as benefits for those concerned.

One potential drawback is that the instruction international students receive may not be relevant to their home contexts. For example, students from developing countries who go to Western countries for teacher training are often taught to use teaching techniques that are suitable for small classes. When they return home they are often expected to teach classes of 40 or 50 students. Hence, what they have been trained to do may not be relevant.

Another potential drawback is the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’. Prior to leaving home, they may be fully committed to returning. Nevertheless, students are often at the stage in their lives when they are forming their most important personal and professional relationships. Thus they may choose to remain in the host country on completing their studies.

However, most international students find ways of making the experience work well for themselves and others involved. Most return home, enriched by new friendships made abroad. Furthermore, most find ways of adapting what they have learned to their home context. On balance, the drawbacks do not outweigh the benefits.