In a survey just published, no fewer than 97 percent of respondents say that ‘their time abroad has had a positive or very positive impact on their personal life today’. The survey asked Dutch higher education students who studied abroad with an Erasmus grant for a few months or more to reflect on the experience five years later.

Open attitude

The positive effect is stronger the longer students spent abroad. They list benefits in areas such as personal development, independence, knowledge of language and culture, adopting an “open attitude” and making social contacts. The respondents cite learning to work with people from other cultures as the most important professional advantage.

There is a strong element of self-selection in this ResearchNed survey, which was commissioned by the Erasmus+ National Agency (part of Nuffic, the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education). The respondents volunteered to complete the questionnaires, which increases the likelihood of positive results. It also turns out that many students who embarked on an Erasmus exchange already had an international focus beforehand.

‘It runs in the family’

In interviews with the researchers, many of the students explained that their family background had already given them a strong international outlook. They were well-travelled, have relatives who live abroad and other family members had also studied in other countries. In the words of the researchers, “it runs in the family”.

An earlier study revealed that students are more likely to be motivated to study abroad if their parents are graduates of higher education. In the interest of equal opportunities, Nuffic would like to see more students get the chance to study abroad for a short time. The hope is that this will give them a positive experience which they can build on later in life.

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