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This question is one of special note in 2019 when you consider the cost of studying abroad and the fact that a year abroad does not count toward your final degree. Despite this, I wholeheartedly believe that for the majority of people a year abroad is beneficial.
Firstly, a problem many students encounter when progressing from second to third-year is the difficulty to acclimatise towards a heavier workload. Most third-year students struggle with the balance between writing a dissertation (or equivalent project) and taking on heavier modules whilst keeping up with extra-curricular activities. As such, a year abroad offers students the ability to be immersed within a course. The respective student will gain more experience in the field they are working in; hopefully leading to better results in third-year, the time when it matters the most to do well.
Another benefit that comes from a gap between second and third-year is the ability to spend time away from a traditional academic environment. This is incredibly helpful for many students who have gone straight from GCSE’s to A-levels to a degree as it helps to put one’s career goals and aspirations for the future in a better perspective. The academic environment can get incredibly intense and overwhelming to the point where it is difficult to perceive a future outside of academia. Thus, being a foreign country for a year can allow studies to progress. It can also remind you of the importance to lead the life you want outside of work.
The most obvious benefit is also worth mentioning: the very fact that a year abroad offers the ability to study in a completely foreign country is a huge opportunity. The brand-new environment effectively forces a student to make new friends and connections, strengthening any social skills that can easily slump post-fresher’s week. As well as this, learning to navigate an entirely new place and culture gives a student the skills to adapt to any environment in the future, for what could be more intimidating than a completely new country, surrounded by strangers possibly speaking a foreign language.
The ability to travel, moreover, is an invaluable life experience. After graduating university, life is likely to become a lot more intense and a lot busier. A gap between second and third-year is the best time to see the world whilst not needing to take an entire year out of life.
While a year abroad may be expensive, the intangible benefits it offers a student are invaluable. It may not count towards your degree, but what you gain from the experience can be so much more than a grade.