The number of German students who study at a foreign university has more than doubled over the last few years, to more than 25 percent. This is a good development, researchers from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany conclude. “Sojourning in a foreign country has positive effects on the students’ personal development.”
“To find one’s way in a foreign country is an important life experience”, researcher Franz Neyer states. “Such experiences have influence on the personality development of young adults. Therefore we posed the question whether a stay abroad can influence the personality development of sojourning students,” Julia Zimmermann adds.
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The researchers conclude that “those students who are about to study abroad are – even before they leave – more open-minded, conscientious and extravert than their fellow students who stay at home.” Moreover, the psychologists assessed the personality changes the experience sojourning abroad brings about: “Those who spent some time abroad profit in their personality development, for instance in terms of growing openness and emotional stability. Their development regarding these characteristics clearly differed from the control group even when initial personality differences were taken into account.”
The researchers identified the much higher numbers of international contacts as a mechanism to explain these differences in personality development. “People who integrate successfully into a different culture may find it easier to cope with new situations and master challenges,” Zimmermann assumes. “However, it is not imperative to go abroad to gain these experiences. But those who hit the road clearly benefit from the sojourning experience,” Zimmermann resumes. The researchers concluded that the generous support of international experience for students is worth to be continued in the future.
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