Skip to main content
Global Opportunities

Benefits of going abroad

The decision to study or work abroad is a process of self-discovery that adds an international element to your degree and career, staying with you for the rest of your life.

There are very few times in your life when you will have the opportunity to live and study in a different culture without job pressures or other responsibilities. Experiencing life in another country while you are a student is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our numerous undergraduate degree programmes offer you this unique opportunity to either study at a prestigious international university or gain work experience abroad.

You may be able to complete an exchange abroad during term time (with credits counting towards your Queen Mary degree) either by extending the study of your chosen subject with an additional year abroad or completing an optional semester abroad as part of a standard undergraduate degree (restrictions and conditions apply; please also note application deadlines). Certain degree programmes allow students to work abroad instead during this extramural year. Queen Mary also supports undergraduate students to gain the benefits of going abroad during a summer or short-term programme at one of our partner universities abroad, often with funding such as through GO Summer!.

These are rare opportunities to live and study in a different culture, with both Queen Mary and a host organisation supporting you. Students who go abroad during their studies find that it is a deeply enriching experience, offering so much more than merely giving their CV a boost. Research also proves it increases civic engagement and self-concept clarity, and enhances future employability and academic success. All of this allows students who go abroad to build up a network of valuable contacts, broaden their horizons and develop an entire range of new soft skills.

You can read more about the numerous benefits below, but to start with, here are some reassuring statistics. Studies conducted of UK students show that on average, mobile students (when compared to students who don't go abroad) are:

  • 9% more likely to gain a 1st or 2:1 degree
  • 24% less likely to be out of work after graduation
  • 10% more likely to be in graduate jobs*
  • 7% higher wage earners*

(*) 6 months after graduation

The Global Opportunities team sends a survey annually to all students who complete exchanges abroad during the previous academic year, requesting for them to reflect on a number of areas and provide feedback.

Students are asked to reflect on their self-perceived level of improvement in various areas of skills development during their exchange. More specifically, they are asked to what extent they feel these areas have improved by the time their exchange ended, compared to before they went abroad. Possible answers include "a great deal" / "somewhat" / "slightly" / "not at all (no change) or N/A."

Of the respondents who studied abroad during 2021/22:

  • 51% confirmed their communication skills improved by “a great deal”
  • 51% confirmed their intercultural awareness and empathy improved by “a great deal”
  • 48% confirmed their open-mindedness and social tolerance improved by “a great deal”
  • 37% confirmed their technical skills/knowledge in their field of expertise improved by “a great deal”
  • 31% confirmed their overall academic progress improved by “a great deal”

  • 82% confirmed their resilience, flexibility and adaptability skills improved by either “somewhat or “a great deal”
  • 76% confirmed their problem-solving and innovative thinking skills improved by either “somewhat or “a great deal”
  • 71% confirmed their self- and time-management skills improved by either “somewhat” or “a great deal”
  • 68% confirmed their employability and job market preparedness improved by either “somewhat or “a great deal”
  • 45% confirmed their foreign language skills improved by either “somewhat” or “a great deal”

One of the greatest benefits of spending part of the year in another country is the chance it gives you to find more about our about yourself: Queen Mary students who have gone abroad tell us that it has done wonders for their confidence. They discover that they can adapt to new environments and cultures, communicate with many different kinds of people, make a success of managing life and study abroad – and really enjoy their independence. You’ll learn as much about yourself as you will about another culture.

You will experience different environments and learn more about another culture’s approach to different aspects of work or study (and possibly education itself). You may find that you have modules open to you that you wouldn’t be able to study in the UK, giving you a unique edge to your UK degree. You’ll gain a wider range of perspectives than the average student and bring that greater knowledge back to your studies and your professional career.

Personalise your degree programme 

Choosing from the partner’s wide range of offered courses, you will be able to personalise your degree programme in a niche way by having exclusive access to modules different to those of your Queen Mary classmates. Discovering new learning and study methods in a foreign environment will increase your academic rigour and allow you to see your subject field from a new perspective. 

Going abroad can be a valuable investment that will bring you a lifetime of personal and professional rewards. An exchange experience helps you to broaden your career opportunities, facilitating greater access to highly paid jobs in the UK and abroad. It also allows you the opportunity to gain and improve the transversal skills that will render you desirable to employers, while you acquire diverse knowledge bases and intercultural competencies.

Competitive advantage on the job market

An international experience also enables you to stand out in a crowded employment market. 64% of employers aim to recruit individuals with international experience as they know that these potential employees will show a willingness to learn, make for better leaders and be keen to work within diverse teams in the globalised world.

A broad worldview demonstrates to potential employers your ability to understand other perspectives, adapt to varying environments and bring an appreciation of insights and practices outside of your own. Students with international experience can demonstrate that they are willing to learn, can problem-solve, act on their own initiative and work very well in diverse teams.

In addition to the soft skills you acquire abroad, your time overseas also demonstrates to potential employers that you can understand other perspectives, adapt to changing environments and think beyond your own immediate experience. Many of our students find that they also develop a network of valuable international contacts.

A few statistics

  1. Unemployment is lower among mobile students (4.3% compared to 5.6%), especially among mobile disadvantaged students (3.1% compared to 5.0%);
  2. 5 years after graduation, the unemployment rate of Erasmus students is 23% lower;
  3. 81% of mobile students achieved First Class or Upper Second Class (2.1) in their degree (non-mobile students 72%);
  4. 1 in 10 Erasmus trainees have started their own company;
  5. 1 in 3 Erasmus trainees received a job position in the host company;
  6. 92% of employers are looking for transversal skills;
  7. 78% of employers are looking for relevant work experience;
  8. 64% of employers think international experience is important for recruitment;
  9. 64% of employers give greater professional responsibilities to individuals who have been mobile;
  10. On average, mobile graduates earned more than non-mobile graduates.

Sources: see below section "Sources and further reading." 

Going abroad during your Queen Mary degree gives you more than you can anticipate before departure. In addition to transversal skills, the intercultural competencies that employers now seek when hiring include many other skills, including soft skills.

After returning home, you have the potential to possess an array of these important global skills that you will learn how to recognise, articulate and hone to your advantage, such as:

  • Confidence
  • Tolerance
  • Sociability
  • Self-awareness, self-reliance, self-management
  • Intercultural awareness and communication across cultural boundaries
  • Demonstrating initiative
  • Independence
  • Problem-solving
  • Decisiveness
  • Adaptability
  • Knowledge of other countries
  • Language skills (see further details below)

“We breathe in our first language, and swim in our second.” (Adam Gopnik, Paris to the Moon)

Learning a language opens doors to other cultures, allowing you to know people in their own language. On both practical and personal levels, it allows you to integrate better with your new local and wider global communities whilst on exchange, to gain valuable alternate perspectives, and it also allows you to develop your creativity and enhance your communication skills. As another bonus, advances in scientific studies now provide substantial evidence that language learning can increase brain activity, size and development. 

Queen Mary can help you to learn a new language before you study abroad – or improve your existing skills. The majority of our partner institutions teach their courses in English as well as in their native language (if not English), so you don’t need to know another language to study abroad – but you will probably get far more out of your exchange if you do. It will allow you to take full advantage of all available opportunities and to draw the maximum benefit.

Some people are discouraged from studying abroad because they think it will be unaffordable. At Queen Mary, we want all of our students to have the same opportunities, so have gathered together information on the financial help available to students who would otherwise be unable to study abroad. Please consult the Finance section in the lefthand navigation to find out more.

To start with, a Queen Mary exchange allows you to earn credits that count toward your degree while studying at one of the most prestigious universities in the world without paying the host institution’s tuition fees. Moreover, all students have the right to maintain existing bursaries and loans, taking these with them abroad. 

For any students conducting a portion of research abroad, this experience can provide invaluable access to first-hand sources, time for reflection, new networking opportunities with and support from international scholars, increased possibilities for international collaboration, increased potential for invitations to conferences and colloquiums, etc.

Whether you spend a few months, semester or year abroad, your time spent away from London, your friends and family is hardly time lost. On the contrary: if you embrace the opportunities it offers, your exchange has the potential to be a valuable investment bringing lifetime returns to both your personal and professional lives.

Reduced fees to Queen Mary for full-year exchanges

Students who complete a full academic year exchange also benefit from reduced tuition to Queen Mary (85% fee reduction for UK/EU students and 50% fee reduction for Overseas students for the year spent abroad). If you elect to complete a four-year degree programme with a year abroad, the reduced tuition fees paid to Queen Mary for the additional year allow you, in return, to gain the equivalent of 120 Queen Mary credits'/one year's worth of tuition at the host institution, the face value of which is often much higher for their full-degree students.

Completing an exchange is so much more than developing a global outlook and a new skill set.

Above all, studying abroad will take you to places and introduce you to people you will never forget. You will gain so much more than just an entry on a CV. These experiences will shape you, allow you to make valuable friends and contacts, and leave you with memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

We will prepare you thoroughly for your global academic adventure, so you can relax and enjoy your time overseas, knowing we’re with you all the way.

UCAS has a useful page on what to consider when studying abroad.

It’s not an opportunity you’re going to get ever again. You won’t get an opportunity to spend four months or a year in a place where you’re not having to work [long-term]. You’re at university so it’s a lot more chilled out. You’ve got time to explore. Rather than having the commitment of a [permanent] job at 9am and leaving at 6pm. You’ll instantly regret it if you don’t do it.
— Murray Glynn, BA Politics and Business, Studied Abroad at University of Hong Kong, autumn 2016

Benefits of going abroad

Find out how our students have benefited from going abroad as part of their Queen Mary degree.

Back to top