The first man to ever study abroad (as far as we can know these sorts of things) was Emo of Friesland, who was from northern Holland and studied at Oxford University in 1190. Many other Europeans went on to study abroad throughout the next centuries, most likely all of which were members of the royal elites from rich countries since very few people could afford such a privileged experience.
Life conditions became especially cumbersome during the Middle Ages, when poverty increased and access to education was minimal. But some people recognized the value of international education, that is, learning from other countries and cultures by temporarily moving abroad. Fasting forward to 1754, Swiss diplomat Emmerich de Vattel urges the “exchange of professors among various nations” because “the peace and security of each nation was dependent upon the peace and security of all.”
Vattel brings up the key idea that, without connecting countries with one another, they cannot successfully achieve their goals of peace and security. I would take this farther and say that, without the mutual effort of working with other countries, no country can fully succeed in increasing quality of life for its people, especially in today’s globalized world.
But instead of choosing the political or any other suitable realm, he chose education as the essential link between nations because it is the foundation of every society: we are never the same again after gaining access to education, and the more education a country provides, the greater is the change seen. It is by acquiring knowledge that we learn to excel at any field.
As a result, the more a country fosters education to all its people, the better it will form politicians, doctors, diplomats, you name it, and the better will be its relationship with other countries. In addition, learning from other cultures enriches our education even more because each culture has its own worldviews and approaches to improving society.
Study abroad, then, is a practice that has been with us for a long time, and has long been seen as helpful in enriching and improving our country. We shouldn’t consider it only as an experience that promotes self-discovery and improvement, but rather one that is also capable of impacting our communities and, on a larger scale, even our countries.
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