by Justin Weinger
College is a chance to broaden your horizons, entertain new ideas and shape yourself as a person. For most people, it's the first time in their lives that they'll be entirely independent of their parents, free to make their own choices and live however they see fit. When you're figuring out exactly what experiences would make your college days memorable, learning a foreign language might not immediately come to mind, but it should. Take your learning a step beyond Duolingo and take advantage of the professors and programs at your disposal. Doing so will help you tap into a variety of benefits that will last a lifetime.
This isn't the sole reason you should take up a foreign language, but it is worth noting. There are plenty of elective credits to fill while you're working toward your degree, and languages are both a fun and easy way to fulfill some of your program's requirements. For the best experience, you should consider a Romance language like Spanish, French or Italian. These are easiest for native English speakers to learn; Asian languages, like Mandarin and Korean, are some of the hardest, so you could go for those if you're genuinely passionate about the cultures they belong to.
Can speaking a second language help you pay for college? You bet! Study hard enough and you may qualify for a scholarship or grant. Many students are always on the lookout for different ways to save money and pay for their degree; awards are just one option. Private student loans can also help you cover the cost of education, and you can explore a variety of flexible, low-interest options online for free. For students who need help paying for their education, opportunity is everywhere. A four-year commitment to developing proficiency in a foreign language will open up new doors that include access to funding and reducing student debt.
Being bilingual makes you a highly desirable candidate in any field. Being able to fluently communicate with bilingual clients strengthens your resume, which is particularly important for a recent college graduate who has limited work experience. You might even discover a new passion that leads you down a completely unexpected path. Maybe you decide to become a teacher, or you take up tutoring on the weekends. There are so many ways that being bilingual influences what you do and how you perceive the world.
Study abroad and learn more about another culture without feeling like a complete outsider. Locals will be impressed by your speaking skills, and they'll be flattered you've taken the time and dedication to learn even a little of their native tongue. Being able to read and talk in another language also opens up travel opportunity that would normally be closed off. You'll be able to take the bus, visit local spots and get a real taste for the countries you visit beyond the tourist spots.
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