Inspirations in Foreign Study: Famous Exchange Students and Their Stories

Sometimes, we all need a little inspiration – someone to light the way when things get tough and show us why our task is worth doing. Luckily, you can find such inspirational people in almost any disciplines. Here are the stories of five famous folks who studied abroad and how it helped make them who they are today.

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper is an esteemed journalist who works as an anchor for CNN, a frequent correspondent for 60 minutes and in a number of other media and journalism roles.

Shortly after finishing his degree and starting to work in journalism, Cooper traveled to Vietnam where he studied the Vietnamese language at the University of Hanoi for a year. While overseas, he also filmed reports about Vietnamese life, which helped boost his journalism career.

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Bill Clinton

Although Bill Clinton is known mostly for what he did in his home country of the United States, he also spent some time studying in England. Before he was the President of the United States, he studied politics and government at Oxford University while on a Rhodes Scholarship. Oxford was also the place where Clinton famously ‘did not inhale.’

JK Rowling

The famed author of the Harry Potter series hails from Britain, which hosts study abroad opportunities such as the Cambridge summer school. She earned part of her literary degree in France, however, where she lived for about a year with roommates from various countries.

She’s also lived in Portugal and has studied both French and German. This multi-cultural and multilingual background, she says, is important to her and may very well have influenced her writing.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk’s impressive resume includes positions as the CEO of Tesla Motors and Space-X, chairman of SolarCity, co-founder of PayPal and co-chairman of OpenAI.

While you may know Musk from his work with electric cars and human space travel, you might not that he studied in Canada and the United States although he’s originally from South Africa.

He studied physics at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada for two years and then transferred to the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S. He earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University and even received an honorary doctorate of Engineering and Technology from Yale University.

Elon Musk has accomplished a lot so far in his life, but if he hadn’t had the educational experiences he did, who knows whether we’d have his innovations at all?

Vera Wang

While working on her art history degree, famous fashion designer Vera Wang spent some time studying in France at the University of Paris-Sorbonne where the country’s fashion caught her eye. After college, she began working as an editor at Vogue magazine and eventually began designing her own clothes. Her work is immensely popular, especially among celebrities.

While studying abroad won’t instantly make you into the next Vera Wang, Anderson Cooper or Elon Musk, it will almost certainly help you on an academic, career and personal level.  Studying abroad can help give you a unique perspective and introduce you to new things. And when that happens, as evidenced by these inspirational international students, truly great things can happen.


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