Academic journal article Peer Review

Study Abroad or Study Away: It's Not Merely Semantics

Academic journal article Peer Review

Study Abroad or Study Away: It's Not Merely Semantics

Article excerpt

Increasingly, colleges and universities have made study abroad or, as some are calling it, education abroad - an important component of their students' educational experience. They argue (and we agree) that study abroad provides students with a global perspective, and thus better prepares them for living and leading in our globally interdependent society. As Chickering and Braskamp have argued, developing and internalizing a global perspective is an essential part of a holistic development paradigm-well grounded in sound student development theory (2009).

Since this generation and future generations of students are and will be increasingly interacting with a larger, more globalized community, they need to become ever more competent in understanding, talking with, relating to, and working with persons who differ from them politically, socioeconomically, and religiously. Might a domestic program, designed to meet these same educational learning and developmental objectives, influence students to think, reflect upon themselves, and interact with others, and thereby generate outcomes similar to those of a study abroad program? We would argue, yes. While study abroad is an important educational experience that can foster the development of these desired learning outcomes and developmental skills, mindsets, and behaviors, so too are domestically based off-campus study programs. Thus, we introduce "study away" as a concept and educational strategy that integrates study abroad programs with domestic programs. Diverse cultures within a local, regional, or national community should be recognized for providing learning opportunities and experiences that can also be transformative.

According to the IES Abroad Web site Alumni Career Resources section, an international experience is important because "It shows your versatility, your ability to adapt to change, global work experience (if applicable), cultural sensitivity, and also highlights the increased confidence and global awareness you likely gained as a result of living and learning abroad." In other words, study abroad fosters the same general learning skills, self-identity formation, and interactions with others we hope all students have acquired by the time of graduation. We do not assume college graduates who work in the international arena work in the country of their study abroad experience, and many graduates who studied overseas often take positions in the United States. However, they still interact daily with a diverse workforce. Today, even in many rural locations, the United States has become so richly diverse that one does not need to travel more than a few blocks from a campus to have a cross-cultural experience, hear other languages spoken, meet people from different cultural traditions, and discover religious practices different from one's own. The U.S. population is no longer majority and historic minorities, but inclusive of large immigrant populations. Even what constitutes a majority is shifting by state and region. We are a global nation.


If a common goal of diversity and multicultural programs and internationalization programs is to assist students to live effectively with difference, why do we assume only an international program experience can do this? If there are critical skills we want students to acquire and engage in, does it matter whether these are acquired internationally or locally? Thus, we argue for retiring the terms "study aboard" and "education abroad," and instead adopting "study away."

As both a concept and strategy, study away recognizes that students can have experiences that open their minds, hearts, and behaviors to difference and allows them to experience such difference firsthand, either internationally or domestically. Additionally, by expanding the concept of study abroad to study away, the range of experiences that can move students toward living effectively with difference is gready expanded. …

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