Found this interesting little tidbit on today’s Academica Top Ten list, which brings a daily list of thoughtful and informative bits of information on higher education.
Studying overseas “rewires the brain”
Many students who studied overseas would say that the experience changed their lives. In fact, studying abroad also changes a student’s brain, according to research by a doctoral student at the University of North Dakota. Yuliya Kartoshkina, who is writing her dissertation on the subject, says that this happens because of how memory works. Our individual experiences stimulate one of the 100 billion neurons in our brains. Repeated experiences stimulate multiple neurons, and over time, these neurons fire together to establish patterns. This in turn creates memories and expectations, shaping how we perceive the world. “Our brain is wired to recognize patterns, including certain elements of culture,” Kartoshkina said. “By growing up in one culture, our brain is wired in a certain way.” When a student spends time in a different culture — with a different set of experiences — these patterns of expectations are interrupted. Kartoshkina has pointed out that this research could benefit study-abroad advisers at PSE institutions, helping them better understand how the brain works, and then preparing students accordingly for what they might experience while studying in a different country. Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)