The benefits of the exchange experience – University of Copenhagen

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24 April 2017

The benefits of the exchange experience

Are student exchanges all fun and games until someone misses out on a job? Not necessarily. We have asked students about the learning outcomes of study periods abroad, and their acquired skills are in fact much in line with employers’ requirements.

Try asking the person sitting next to you to reflect on his study abroad experience. Usually this does not exactly result in a shortfall of platitudes: “why yes, it gave me a completely new perspective” or “leaving your comfort zone totally teaches you a valuable lesson about life”. Perhaps you will even get the holistic classic “oh, it turned me into a complete person”. This is not to say that these statements are not true; leaving my own comfort zone during my exchange totally changed my perspective and turned me into a complete person. But what does that mean?

How have you been affected by your study abroad experience?

Ask and you shall receive (students’ own interpretation of learning outcomes)
As any Erasmus+ Coordinator will know, the European Commission’s Mobility Tool requires all exchange students to answer a variety of questions upon completion of their Erasmus+ exchange. Some of these questions refer to learning outcomes, and at UCPH we recently crunched the numbers from the 2014-2015 intakes of Erasmus+ students. And what we found was very interesting.

Go abroad, find yourself – and learn
The learning outcome that most students reported was “seeing the values of different cultures”. More than 80 percent of students also reported an improvement in the following three skills: Adaptability to new situations; knowing own strengths and weaknesses; and being more confident in own abilities. But are these just a new batch of transversal clichés to add to the mix? Not entirely. Many of these improved skills are also consistent with the requirements of future employers, as for instance shown by the European Commission’s Erasmus Impact Study from 2016.

Come home, settle in – and use what you learned
The Erasmus Impact Study shows that Nordic employers especially value the ability to adapt and act in new situations; to analyse and solve problems; to communicate; and to plan and organise. The same study also showed that an Erasmus+ exchange or traineeship fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, something that has shown tangible results through for instance start-ups. So the next time someone asks you to reflect on your study abroad experience? Here is an innovative way of putting it: “it made me more ready for a job”. 

Learning outcomes for students, students reporting an improvement
(Total number of respondents: 609)

Seeing the values of different cultures

88.72%

Adaptability to new situations

86.53%

Knowing ones strengths and weaknesses   

82.66%

Confidence and conviction of abilities

82.15%

Planning and carrying out learning independently

76.43%