The Many Benefits of ‘Study Abroad’

The Atlantic: “A couple of years ago, the nonprofit Institute of International Education launched a campaign called Generation Study Abroad to double the number of U.S. students who spend time in foreign countries each year to 600,000 over five years. Right now, only around 10 percent of American college students study abroad. While people of color make up about 40 percent of each graduating class, they comprise just a quarter of those who go abroad. The numbers are especially low for black and Latino students. So hundreds of schools across the country … are focusing on reaching out specifically to students of color.”

“Where study abroad has traditionally been viewed as a year-long immersive experience, universities are expanding short-term opportunities for students who don’t have the money or time to go away for longer. These days, more than 60 percent of students who go abroad do either a summer program or a trip during the school year that is less than eight weeks. Around a third spend a semester abroad, and just 3 percent go for an entire school year.”

“Wagaye Johannes, the project director of Generation Study Abroad, said students see cost as the biggest barrier, even though some study abroad programs are less expensive than staying at their home universities … Culture is another, sometimes tricker, topic … Sometimes the pushback comes from families who are fearful of their children going someplace unfamiliar.”

“There is evidence that studying abroad has measurable benefits. A study prepared for the European Commission found that students who went abroad had lower unemployment rates after graduation. A report by the University System of Georgia found that graduation rates were higher for students who had been abroad, especially for low-income and minority students. Other studies have indicated that students come back more culturally aware … not only do individual scholars stand to benefit, but so does the nation’s ability to interact with other countries in an increasingly global economy.”

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Top 10 Tips for Your Time at College

Vox: Christopher Blattman, an associate professor at Columbia University, offers 10 “suggestions to help make the most of college.” Here are a few of his ideas:

“Don’t wait until you finish law or medical school to discover you hate working in your specialty. Try early and often. Test out different careers in the summer — researcher, journalist, medical assistant, nonprofit worker, congressional aide, and so on … For anyone interested in law, public policy, business, economics, medicine — or really any profession — I suggest at least two semesters of statistics, if not more. Data is a bigger and bigger part of the work in these fields, and statistics is the language you need to learn to understand it.”

“In my experience, you learn more from great teachers than from great syllabuses … pick eight or nine classes based on the syllabus, go to them all, and then keep the four or five classes with the most engaging professors … Languages are hugely important. And you should learn another (or many others) besides English. But I think they’re better learned in immersion, during your summers or before and after college … Take writing seriously. You will use it no matter your career.”

“Use a summer or a school year to live abroad, ideally a place completely different from home, where you’ll come to know local people (and not just the expatriate community) … An independent research project can be the perfect capstone to your college years. Sadly, I often see theses that weren’t worth the students’ investment of time and energy. Some people’s time would be better spent acquiring technical skills.”

“At the end of each year of college, you should look back at your thoughts and opinions 12 months before and find them quaint. If not, you probably didn’t read or explore or work hard enough.”

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Study Abroad: The Four-Year Program

BloombergBusiness: “Many students are choosing to go further than a one-semester break and attend all four years of college in a foreign city. The number of students enrolled in college outside their countries rose 463 percent from 1975 to 2012, said a report last month by Moody’s Investors Service. International students in the U.S. have grown by 70 percent since 2005, according to the report.”

“College in Europe can be astonishingly cheap for Americans. Forty public and private colleges in continental Europe offer free bachelor’s degrees, taught in English, to Americans … An additional 98 colleges ask tuition of under $4,000 per year … European colleges want American applicants because they can charge higher tuition for non-EU residents. Americans in Europe will still pay considerably less than they would at home … The main thing that holds some Americans back from studying across the Atlantic is a fear that they’ll sacrifice quality—and North American career opportunities.”

Jennifer Viemont, “co-founder of Beyond The States, a database of 350 colleges in 30 countries that offer bachelor’s degrees taught in English,” comments: “The biggest worry people seem to have is that a name from Europe won’t carry the same weight as one from the U.S., but there’s a serious upshot of graduating a year early and with a fraction of the debt. Plus, you’ve seen the world.”

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