Posts Tagged ‘Study abroad’

How to convince your parents that studying/living abroad can actually help you get a job

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Smart Study Abroad says what I’ve long tried to convince my father of: that study abroad is not just about messing around in a foreign country but is also useful career prep (and not just for international careers but any career). Annie Everett from the University of Washington identifies three key skills she learned abroad that have helped her in her career progression: resourcefulness, exposure to cultural diversity, and redefining her idea of networking.

On a related note, Mauro Guillén at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. argues that languages aren’t just tools to achieve an end (as in, you study Chinese for the sole purpose of learning to speak, read, and research in Chinese) but rather something much more. Language study is, according to Guillén, a “fundamentally humbling process by which students learn that their culture and way of expressing it are relative, not absolute:”

Acquiring another language makes students better problem solvers, unleashing their ability to identify problems, enriching the ways in which they search and process information, and making them aware of issues and perspectives that they would otherwise ignore…

Learners of languages, by exposing themselves to other cultures and institutional arrangements, are more likely to see differences of opinion and conflicts by approaching a problem from perspectives that incorporate the values and norms of others as well as their own. Knowledge of other languages also fosters tolerance and mutual understanding. Language learning is thus much more than becoming operational in an environment different than one’s own. It is a powerful way of appreciating and respecting the diversity of the world.

These are all skills that employers (especially international exmployers) greatly value. Guillén also tackles the argument that an increasingly globalized world has cut out the need for language study.  Since “major multinational companies use English at their most important meetings,” why bother with anything but English? Because you severly limit your chances for success and promotion, says Guillén, if you don’t become proficient in the language of the country in which you’re working. “English proficiency may have become a necessary qualification for employment at most multinational organizations, but it is certainly not sufficient to pursue a successful professional career in an international context.”

By undermining the importance of learning other languages, we are losing an opportunity to educate our students to be better citizens of the world, and failing to provide them with the tools and mind-set they need to understand and solve complex problems.

All of these sound like arguments that might have worked pretty well on my dad back in the day.

Is a year abroad better than just a semester? ctd. again

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Here’s something I didn’t come across during the NAFSA conference (I can’t imagine how I missed anything there…[note sarcasm due to exceedingly large scale of conference proceedings]): research reporting that “even short-term study abroad seems to lead to improvements in students’ sense of ‘global citizenship’ and their attitudes, knowledge and skills about cross-cultural issues”—especially pertinent in light of several discussions (here and here) on the topic of short-term v. long-term study abroad.

The most intriguing comment: “At least in the reflection of the participants 5, 10, 15 years down the road, profound growth can happen.” Study abroad can and often is about learning skills in the short run: language and cultural skills, regional and country specific knowledge. But the longer effects of a study abroad experience on a person’s worldview and career choices, though never the most immediate, are often the most profound.

How much oversight for study abroad?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The talk of the NAFSA conference today is an article in USA Today looking at U.S. student safety while studying abroad and the oversight of study abroad programs by universities and providers (it’s the first thing everyone saw when they opened their hotel doors for their complimentary newpapers). A quick overview of the article: the lack of central oversight for international education programs is a major impediment to increasing student safety:

Though most college students who go abroad — nearly 250,000 in the 2006-07 academic year — return home without serious incident, nobody knows exactly how many students end up hurt because nobody is required to keep track on a national level. Nor are most programs required to disclose incidents to the public.

The difficulty with a “federal standard for liability,” though, is that “such a law would effectively ‘kill overseas programs’ because no school or provider would be able to guarantee student safety”:

Higher-education officials don’t question the importance of safety abroad but argue that it must be a shared responsibility.

“This is one of those situations that is an impossibly difficult tradeoff,” says Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the non-profit American Council on Education, which represents higher education in Washington. “We want students to study abroad … and we want them to be safe. But if we wanted to send students to places where we were sure nothing bad could ever possibly happen to them, we probably wouldn’t send them anywhere.”

What does everyone think? How much responsibility do universities and providers have for student safety abroad, since it’s impossible to guarantee? And how much can or should be chalked up to “bad things happen” and students could be assaulted in Kansas City as well as in Kingston? Is there a middle ground?