If you’ve ever studied abroad, you’ll agree that the experience was transformative.
As it turns out, studying abroad literally does rewire your brain. According to research conducted by Yuliua Kartoshkina at the University of North Dakota, immersion in a foreign culture can have permanent effects on the neural pathways in your brain.
How Does This Work?
- Neural pathways in the brain gradually adapt to repeated experiences: This is why we feel more comfortable in familiar or repeated situations.
- Exposure to a new language / culture causes the brain’s neurons to fire in different and unestablished patterns
- After prolonged exposure, these altered patterns eventually form new neural pathways: New memories and experiences eventually become familiar and habitual – in other words, you’ve acclimated to the new situation.
Kartoshkina presented these findings at the 2013 NAFSA (the Association of International Educators) Annual Conference and Expo, which was held in St. Louis this year. Kartoshkina added to this conversation by explaining how her research can benefit those students planning to study abroad. She believes that students who can “find ways to preserve and integrate the old and new patterns of thinking” will benefit the most from going abroad.
How do students do that? Kartoshkina recommends that students integrate into local cultures and then blog about their experience!