Category: Study abroad

Let’s expand “study abroad” to include more than just “study”

“It felt like we were saying that, to get from A to B, we can only use cars – no buses, no trains, no innovative, alternative modes of transport”

By Mark Overmann, Vice President of External Affairs, InterExchange, reflects on IIE’s Generation Study Abroad goal to study abroad – and says that in order to meet it, educators must start thinking beyond the traditional model of study abroad.

I left the recent IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad in DC excited, inspired, and more sure than ever of one key idea: reaching Generation Study Abroad’s “moonshot” goal of doubling the number of Americans studying abroad can only happen if we expand our notion of what “studying” abroad actually means. I’m not suggesting that we pad the numbers. But I am suggesting that we broaden our definition of “study abroad” to also include a variety of international programs that are educational and experiential in nature, but not necessarily academic.
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Mark Overmann is Vice President of External Affairs at InterExchange and co-author of Working World: Careers in International Education, Exchange, and Development. He’s worked for more than a decade on advocacy and strategic communications for international education and exchange programs.

Why we should be building bridges, not walls

“Whatever the outcome of the election, each of us owes it to future generations to embrace a sense of curiosity and acceptance of the world”

With the presidential election looming, IES Abroad president and CEO Mary Dwyer writes on the imperative of reaching out beyond US borders, whatever the outcome.

In just four days, Americans will head to the ballot box to choose our next president. The election outcome will have a significant impact on whether our country will continue to be constructively engaged in global matters related to trade, taxation, climate change, immigration, security and cultural exchange, or whether we will embark on a path toward isolationism, populism and nationalism.
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Mary M. Dwyer, Ph.D. is President and CEO of IES Abroad. Since 1950, IES Abroad has educated more than 110,000 students to become global leaders through study abroad and internship programs. Its consortium of 240+ U.S. colleges and universities offers worldwide experiential learning opportunities.

Helping your students communicate the value of their international experience

 “Despite all the ways an international experience may have influenced their character, many college-aged students struggle to take that last step of weaving their abroad story into their professional narrative”

Studying, working or undertaking an internship abroad can help to equip students with skills and experiences they might not otherwise have had – but the challenge for many students is communicating this to employers. Katie Arango, managing director of Connect-123, considers how institutions can enable their students to get the most out of their international experiences.

International education professionals, students who’ve studied abroad, and at this point, a large portion of the general population are well aware of the many benefits of study, volunteer, teaching and internships abroad. Getting pushed outside one’s comfort zone and being immersed in a different culture presents a multitude of growth opportunities that enrich students personally and eventually, professionally. And in this highly competitive work environment, time spent abroad can certainly be a point of differentiation from other candidates.
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Katie Arango helps create customized international internships and meaningful volunteer programs with Connect-123 in Buenos Aires.

Study abroad: the best decision I almost didn’t make

“I remember my professor’s wife telling me that this was only the beginning for me, and she was right”

Sabrina Prioleau refutes the idea that short-term study abroad doesn’t have an impact on students, describing how her own experience has inspired her to do a PhD in international education.

While in graduate school at Webster University, I noticed the wonderful study abroad opportunities that were offered to undergraduate students. I remembered saying to myself I wish there was a two week study abroad option, however I quickly recanted and said, but they would never have such a short program. To my surprise, I received an email in November 2011 from Webster’s main campus in St. Louis, Missouri. The email encouraged me to add international experience to my resume by participating in a hybrid course, which consisted of 6 weeks of online course work and two weeks abroad.

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Significant experience preferred: unpacking hidden meanings in job postings

“Does listing long-term experience abroad as ‘preferred’ in a job description result in the self-rejection or weeding out of otherwise qualified applicants?”

Tiera Greene, secretary of the Higher Education Student Association and internship/co-op coordinator at Batten College of Engineering and Technology, writes about how asking for ‘significant experience abroad’ can be a barrier to students who don’t have the chance or the means to spend long periods overseas.

Increasing numbers of international education job descriptions boast the phrase “Significant experience abroad preferred” or similar wording. While most don’t explicitly distinguish between short-term and long-term programs, the word ‘significant’ seems to imply a preference for the more “traditional,” longer-term study abroad.
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How to fix study abroad

“Surveys of high school seniors reflect that the vast majority of the future collegians expect to study abroad. Unfortunately, this expectation ends up being more of a dream than a reality”

Mark Shay, CEO of Abroad101 – which some describe as the ‘TripAdvisor of Study Abroad’ – argues that when it comes to studying abroad, US institutions need to do more than simply aim to increase numbers. With red tape and credit transfer proving to be stubborn obstacles, he argues that an overhaul is needed.

Americans perceive study abroad as a prideful, traditional centerpiece of the Liberal Arts experience. The image of leaving the home campus to immerse oneself in a foreign culture and gain a different perspective on life is viewed as a romantic extension of a college experience. Surveys of high school seniors reflect that the vast majority of the future collegians expect to study abroad. Unfortunately, this expectation ends up being more of a dream than a reality – because 95% of all American college students will not study abroad, we need to change.
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Mark Shay is a business leader with a long history of success helping higher education institutions recruit and retain students, with a career that has spanned three decades. He is known throughout the higher education industry as an innovator for developing products like, and creating international student recruiting solutions for agents and universities.

Meaningful international experience is not limited to study abroad alone

“If you really want to nail down your intercultural competencies in the context of your profession, go abroad as a graduate”

Maria Baum is currently teaching abroad in Ecuador with UBELONG, after studying abroad, obtaining a master’s degree in international education from NYU and working for IIE in New York. She writes about how her experience while studying acted as a catalyst for working abroad, and the value of heading overseas post-graduation.

How can we get more Americans to study abroad in college? This question stands at the forefront of the international education sector and has prompted a range of responses in the United States, but the opportunity for meaningful international experience is not limited to study abroad alone.
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‘Fitting in’: the emergence of short-term programs

“I did not consider anything less than a year to be considered a real exchange. How could you master a language, build relationships, and integrate yourself in a community for anything less than at least a few months?”

After writing for The PIE Blog on the unexpected challenges that can crop up during a homestay, Mary Beth Brungardt writes about the value of short-term study abroad.

It has been exactly one week since I arrived to China. Today I joked with a friend that I have not used a fork in seven days, which led to a discussion recapping everything we have learned in such a short period of time.

The growing popularity of short-term study abroad programs has started a debate among professionals and educators in the field. Are these short-term programs more than just an ‘academic trip?’ Does the length of a program dictate whether or not we should label the experience as ‘study abroad?’

There appear to be two trending categories of short-term participants: those who are unwilling to spend extended periods of time away from home, and those who are restricted by certain curriculum requirements. As a result, summer, May, and ‘J’ term programs are becoming increasingly popular among university and high school students. These programs allow us to “fit” the experience into our schedule, and require less commitment.

“There appear to be two trending categories of short-term participants: those who are unwilling to spend extended periods away from home, and those who are restricted by curriculum requirements”

As a junior in high school, I packed my bags and headed out to Spain on a year-long program. At the time, I did not consider anything less than a year to be considered a real exchange. How could you master a language, build relationships, and integrate yourself in a community for anything less than at least a few months? By the time you establish a routine, it would be time to go home.

Despite these disadvantages, short-term programs play a critical role in international education. Spending a few weeks abroad will inevitably not give you the same return as a year. Relationships and integration in the community require time. Languages are not mastered overnight. The bottom line is that you cannot compare short and long-term programs. Each program type has different goals and expectations. But if a student can only study abroad for a short amount of time, catering to this need continues to support our greater mission: raising cultural awareness and understanding.

Coincidentally, my internship project at CIEE revolved around its high school summer abroad program. Reading the feedback from students made me realize how powerful a 3-4 week experience impacted their outlook on the world. They kept blogs. Posted on social media. They shared their experiences and became global ambassadors by educating others of a world very different than their own.

When I told people that I was going to study abroad in China for a semester, I got a wide range of reactions. The people who had previously visited Asia thought it was a brilliant idea. They raved about the amazing food, business opportunities, and endless city nightlife. Those who thought I was “brave” or “a bit extreme” had never traveled here before. They told me stories they had heard from a friend of a friend who went there once back in the ’80s. They expressed how dirty and unsafe they believed the country to be. They brought up one or several of China’s well-known weaknesses.

“If a student can only study abroad for a short amount of time, catering to this need continues to support our greater mission: raising cultural awareness and understanding”

After being here a week, it is impossible for me to even tap into everything there is to know about this city. But there are a few things that stand out.

Each morning when I wake up, the city’s daily air quality score sits at the top of my app notifications. On my walk to campus, I pass a local hole-in-the-wall food market, whose smell and appearance remind me of the poverty-stricken markets I saw in Morocco. At every crosswalk, I am thankful for the pedestrian rights and protection laws that exist in the United States. When at a restaurant, I always order a beverage that is sealed.

However, there is so much good about this country that people do not know. Let me tell you about my Chinese language tutor, who bends over backwards to help me pronounce tones correctly. Or how approachable people on the street are when you need directions. And did I mention that Shanghai has one of the cleanest metros I’ve ever seen? Not to mention the incredible malls, history, architecture, restaurants, and rapidly emerging middle class.

Seven days isn’t everything, but it’s something.

The new destinations for Nigerian students

“Nigerians are traveling further and wider in search of new experiences and better education”

Anthony Ajibosin, CEO of 3AG education agency in Nigeria, writes about why more Nigerians are opting to study abroad and how their destinations of choice are changing.

Nigerians place a high value on education, especially in the last three decades. Studying and gaining a degree is seen as a matter of pride within the family and community. However, the 129 universities in Nigeria cannot cater for the demand of the higher education needs of the more than 15 million people of tertiary school age (or can they?). There has been increase in demand for foreign education, which initially could be attributed to the constant interruption of academic sessions within the Nigeria higher education sector as a result of industrial actions.

But wait a minute – we have about 50 private universities in Nigeria that are not affected by strikes, so why still study abroad? To get a better job? The growing number of working class families, the middle class and the traditional saying ‘the best legacy you can give to a child is education’ has seen to the increase in student mobility: the search for better education, internationally recognised degrees and the ability to become a global player.

“The best legacy you can give to a child is education”

The United Kingdom has always been the destination of choice; this can be linked to historical ties between Nigeria and the UK, distance (6 hours direct flight), world recognition of UK qualifications and, of course, having English as the language of instruction. According to a UNESCO report, over 17,000 Nigerians studied in the UK in 2012, while 6,807 studied in the US, Canada had 2,031 Nigerians and Australia had 398.

Though the UK is still the most popular destination for Nigerians, we are witnessing an increase in the US, Canada and Australia as study destinations. This shift could be attributed to the immigration laws of these countries. The UK as a study destination started experiencing a decline after the withdrawal of the automatic post study work visa. The opportunity for work experience and ability to stay back for a bit in the host countries is enticing to middle class families, according to the UNESCO 2012 report on the Global Flow of Tertiary Level Students: ‘As demand for education rises, mobile students explore new destinations’. So Nigerians are traveling further and wider in search of new experiences and better education.