Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Study Abroad Advantage: With International Exposure, Students Can Broaden Horizons, Boost Job Prospects

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Study Abroad Advantage: With International Exposure, Students Can Broaden Horizons, Boost Job Prospects

Article excerpt

Today's globalized economies and societies require leaders able to embrace cross-cultural differences. Our students should no longer expect to impact a modern work, force without exposure to customs outside the United States. Study abroad, more than ever, is vital in our effort to prepare college students for the demands of careers in an ever-increasing number of fields.

Among the 260,327 students who studied abroad for credit in the 2008-09 academic year, 80.5 percent were White, according to a 2010 Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education. Minority students in higher education must not overlook the value of studying abroad and should begin enhancing their college education by studying in a foreign country for at least one term before graduation. Doing so will contribute to their satisfaction as undergraduates and advance their search for meaningful careers.

Employers are always looking for talents and characteristics that set candidates apart. The modern job market has witnessed study abroad emanating as a differentiating factor. Whether a student has done research at the London School of Economics or taken anthropology courses in Australia, one thing is apparent: He has displayed initiative that has led to an increased understanding of the world. For an employer, the qualified candidate who can articulate the benefits of a term away in a manner that aligns him with potential responsibilities is a gem.

In many cases, these applicants are more culturally aware and possess the adventurous spirit that lends to the productive, creative thinking necessary to excel in any organization or company. Graduate, medical, and law school committees also look favorably upon experiences abroad. The more incoming students with a broad scope of their discipline as it exists within an international framework, the better.

Retention numbers are markedly influenced by experiences off campus. At times, we fail to realize how wearing consecutive semesters of rigorous coursework can be, especially if a student is studying in an environment opposite from that in which she grew up. The prospect of going abroad can motivate a student and invigorate her in extraordinary ways. Upon return, rejuvenated students with newfound passions infuse the college community with fresh energy. Many see improvements in their grades and feel they have more to contribute to discussions in and outside the classroom. This can create an unparalleled sense of belonging. Faculty members often comment on how off-campus experiences have affected their students and how the experiences can contribute to the learning process of a young person, a learning experience different than any that our most prized institutions of higher education can offer. …

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