Bolstering Your Transcript (And Your Brain)
If you've ever prepped for college applications, you already know that bilingualism is a big plus for your student resume. Complementing language skills with immersion experiences in a foreign culture is another way to wow admissions boards. And while we often dismiss much of the criteria used by admissions boards as arbitrary or elitist, bilingualism and foreign cultural immersion actually have a very real, scientifically verified basis for inclusion.
The connection between bilingualism and heightened intelligence has been long established scientifically. Knowledge of a second language has been shown to improve standardized test scores, not only in reading comprehension but even in math.
Modern research of the human brain offers a fascinating look at the effect of foreign language studies on not only how we think but the functioning and even structure of the brain. Bilingualism has been shown to significantly increase neural activity in the brain and causes a significant increase in the quantity of gray matter in the parietal cortex, increasing our mental horsepower. Aside from increasing the brain's raw power and improving its performance qualitatively, these changes caused by bilingualism also increase the brain's longevity, adding years of functionality and staving off the onset of diseases affecting the mind like Alzheimer's.
So what does all of this mean practically? The cognitive growth stemming from learning new languages means improved communication abilities, better multitasking, clearer decision making, a longer memory, and heightened perception.
Investing in cultural intelligence
While the cognitive benefits of bilingualism have long been recognized by science, the mental advantages reaped through cultural immersion became a subject of serious academic study only in the past 30 years. The developing field of cultural intelligence studies has revolutionized approaches to business, education, and government, highlighting the importance of diverse cross-cultural experiences as a means of training the brain.
Cultural immersion is perhaps the most direct approach for cultivating cultural intelligence. Not just learning but experiencing firsthand different ways of living not only opens the mind up to new possibilities, it sheds light on the participant's native culture. By contrasting lifestyles in cross-cultural exchanges, we're forced to deconstruct our own modus operandi. And of course, actively exploring other cultures helps strengthen communication skills.
Open your mind and expand your horizons
So what's the best way for the college-bound to get the core experiences of foreign language and cultural immersion? Ideally, you should start as early as possible with language lessons and extended trips giving you years of experience. But if you're 17 or 18 and haven't gone that route, there are alternatives.
Taking a gap year overseas before college can be a great way to boost your language skills and gain an intimate understanding of another culture. The Lirom Academic Gap Year in Israel, for instance, offers a very attractive program for graduating high school seniors seeking core experience credentials while staying on track for their degree.
Given the diversity of Israeli society and the importance of understanding Middle Eastern culture, Israel is an ideal venue for gaining cultural intelligence and language skills. Participants in the Lirom Academic Gap Year in Israel can combine either college studies with Hebrew lessons, touring, and cultural immersion, or focus on language study, completing their college foreign language requirement.
So if you looking to boost your student resume and don't already have a second language under your belt, consider an academic gap year. Your transcript - and your brain - will thank you for it.
Second Language, Foreign Language Fluency, Study Abroad Israel, Study in Israel, Higher Education, , Affordable tuition, Language Immersion Program, Hebrew, Arab, Farsi, Academic Gap Year in Israel, College, University, univerisityinisrael, Lirom