Studying abroad might seem like a daunting goal, but the rewards you gain and the lives you touch can stay with you for a lifetime.

While you do have to wade through some paperwork and plan ahead financially, studying and doing work placements abroad can be a great way to combine adventure, personal growth and life-changing experiences.

Sabrina Lucifero, international student affairs co-ordinator for the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal, says studying abroad can be a highly rewarding experience for students because the life experience they gain can be a huge advantage in both their personal life and the boardroom.

“Students come back with a variety of experiences both academic and business related and they’re able to grow on a personal level as well,” Lucifero said.

With more employers looking for candidates that have broader life experiences under their belt and can show greater professional and personal maturity, Lucifero says more universities like Concordia are encouraging students to consider heading abroad.

Of course not all learning happens exclusively in the classroom. For students interested in letting their studies have a direct, positive impact on the lives of the people they meet, co-op programs exist, which let you gain valuable field placement experience while helping people in need.

Lynn Caruso is co-ordinator at Seneca College in Toronto for the Students Crossing Borders program, which takes volunteers to communities in Jamaica during the summer to help build and maintain communities in some of Jamaica’s most impoverished areas.

Caruso also co-ordinates an early childhood education program and says helping communities in need abroad can be an excellent way to expand your horizons while giving of yourself to help others.

“It’s a really great way to get exposed to what’s going on in the world — it’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and finding out what it’s like to help people in need,” Caruso said.

If you do plan on studying abroad, Lucifero says you should keep a few things in mind:

• Start getting documents together well in advance (Lucifero recommends at least four months).

• Keep your grades up — most study abroad programs and partner schools require a GPA in the vicinity of 3.0 to be accepted.

• Research your chosen destination country and its schools to find a program that matches your needs.

• Start financial planning early.

• Make sure the credits you gain at the foreign school will transfer to your home school.

• Get testimonials from students who have already gone through your program.

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