IIE Blog Opening Minds
IIE Blog Opening Minds

Is Study Abroad Essential?

By: IIE on Friday, October 25, 2013

As we continue to live in an increasingly globalized world, cross-cultural competence has become an essential skill for succeeding in the global marketplace. Studying abroad is a great way for students to expand their horizons and can open up a world of personal and professional opportunities that will enable those who have the opportunity to study abroad to become effective global citizens. However, some believe that the merits gained from studying abroad aren’t worth the time or cost.

IIE’s President Allan E. Goodman and international careers expert Stacie Nevadomski Berdan recently weighed in on the debate surrounding study abroad for the New York Times Room for Debate: A Year Abroad vs. A Year Wasted. An excerpt from their perspective is below: 

Josie Green Gilman Program"Globalization is here to stay, and students who want to work in our interconnected global world should study abroad.

Learning how to interact with people from other countries and cultures equips future leaders in all sectors to address urgent issues shared across borders.

Despite the inevitable increasing global competition for jobs, American graduates lack the international experience, language capabilities and cross-cultural communication skills necessary to succeed in the global economy.With only about 10 percent of students studying abroad at some point in their academic career, we have a long way to go."

Read Dr. Goodman and Stacie Nevadomski Berdan’s full response as well as other perspectives on studying abroad on the New York Times and add your comments to the discussion. We would love to hear what you think!

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  • Juan said:
    11/3/2013 1:39 PM

    I agree that international travel is an important aspect of the student educational experience. How can we justify this type of learning opportunity when the focus is on degree completion? How do we ensure that this experienced is valued as much as a lecture based college experience?

  • Roy J Nirschel, PhD said:
    11/15/2013 6:08 PM

    This is a very interesting debate.
    For me, study abroad (I did mine in Taiwan - in the olden days - when it was "Free China") was a transformative experience, exposing me to the currents of culture, history, politics (not to mention food!) which has stayed with me to this day. Living and working in Asia today (as the founding President of the American University of Vietnam project) was due - I believe to that initial exposure to things Asian a long time ago.

    Too often, though, (and I speak as a longtime educator in the US who sent hundreds of students abroad - and the parent of two who went) study abroad does not have the same impact. Hordes of students going to lovely cities (Florence comes to mind) and interacting with thousands of other English-speaking Americans, in US college-style classes, and then searching out the happy hour prices does little in opening students to the world.

    However, even in those settings a student in these environs is forced, even minimally, to pick up a few words of the language, learn about the art, manage a mass transit system, bargain for gifts, eat different foods, and see both the differences between countries and people and our common humanity.

    Any experience from study abroad, to living in a diverse neighborhood, or exploring different internships domestically have a lasting effect - whether the 20- something fully realizes it at the time. One key element for its furtherance would be to make sure that the economic disparity (making it more affordable) is woven into a college's planning and priorities (scholarships should travel with the student) and that the study abroad experience should link directly to the academic pathway of the student. Students should go both prepared to connect the experience to their overall learning but also upon return, have both great memories and insights but also link the foreign exposure to their future course work.

    One can argue that these venues for learning and living are valuable and no more a "waste" than courses with 300 students in an auditorium or some domestic classes in our education system. For me and others living and learning abroad had a more lasting effect than did Bio 100.

    And, if anyone wants to study abroad here in fascinating Vietnam, let me know!

  • Vijaya Sena Reddy Solipuram said:
    12/15/2013 1:25 PM

    As Mark Twain said one most travel and know the world,learn.Once step out from the home for education,students are going to learn many things and personally in my observation many students transformed into perfect Gentlmen by doing bachelors and masters out side India.They are people lead and excel whatever they do.

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