IIE Blog Opening Minds
IIE Blog Opening Minds

Idea 1: redefine, rebrand and modernize the concept of “study abroad”

By: IIE on Tuesday, May 20, 2014

“Study abroad” has a strong connotation among some audiences of being fluff and fun, irrelevant to academic study and accessible only to the wealthy. The term itself does not reflect the breadth of study abroad options that have evolved over the years; it is outdated and needs to be changed to reflect the new reality of “study abroad.” In our outreach campaigns, Generation Study Abroad needs to work to rebrand “study abroad” as something that is serious preparation for living and working in today’s global economy, and can encompass internships, volunteering, and service learning abroad as well as classroom experience.

  • Emphasize that study abroad is a critical component of what it means to be educated today; all graduates should be globally competent citizens (we must also define what global competence means).
  • Acknowledge that all international experiences are not equal, and work to build a repository of best practices and a review process for institutions to use in measuring their programs’ outcomes for global competency. 
  • Research and identify what motivates students and employers; design campaign outreach around the findings.
  • Create a common language; yet develop messages and tools to address different stakeholders, especially to increase diversity.
  • Change the discussion from a narrow view of classroom-only “study abroad” to something much more inclusive and far-reaching. Consider adding terminology such as Global Citizens, Study @home and in the world, “at home in the world,” Opening a World of Opportunity or comparable examples of successful catchphrases such as D.A.R.E. or “Let’s Move.” Research successful campaigns that have been transformative as well as those that have failed to learn lessons.
  • Ensure that study abroad advisors are trained to advise on study abroad as a learning and career enhancement rather than on the “fun” aspect of where the student wants to go. 
  • Build bridges between campus counselors and study abroad officers to ensure proper discussion of objectives, that pre-departure training and reentry discussion takes place, and that students understand how to leverage study abroad in their job search.
  • Identify diverse celebrity/role model/spokesperson(s) who can play various roles in promoting study abroad, explaining the value of study abroad, and helping prospective students and parents visualize study abroad.
  • Address the negative connotation of study abroad, i.e., it’s “unpatriotic,” and combat the negative stories in the media by replacing them with positive ones.

Join the conversation by adding a comment below

This blog entry summarizes Idea 1 of 11 “Big Ideas” brainstormed during IIE's Generation Study Abroad Think Tank event in March 2014. They are compiled in the IIE Green Paper, “What will it take to Double Study Abroad?


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  • Pat Martin said:
    5/28/2014 12:36 PM

    "In our outreach campaigns, Generation Study Abroad needs to work to rebrand “study abroad” as something that is serious preparation for living and working in today’s global economy, and can encompass internships, volunteering, and service learning abroad as well as classroom experience."

    The rebranding of study abroad should include research conducted abroad. Many students conduct research that will contribute toward a thesis. However research done abroad separately from other types of organized experiences, is not covered in this report and is not included in Open Doors.

    Research also has clear educational goals and learning outcomes.

  • Fiora MacPherson said:
    8/5/2014 1:24 PM

    I think the ideas expressed in the Green Paper are all great. I look forward to seeing Generation Study Abroad progress!

    In terms of changing the reputation of study abroad, I would have also liked to hear some attention devoted to diversifying global interaction. According to IIE data, 53.3% of students studying abroad do so in Europe, a region that holds only 10% of the world's population. I think that it undermines study abroad efforts if undergraduate international engagement is really with a narrowly defined range of cultures.

    Rebranding should also include encouraging a range of locations, allowing students the opportunity to interact with the diverse communities and languages that make up the world's population. I would love to hear IIE commit not only to helping students study abroad, but also to think critically about their choice of destination.



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For more than nine decades, the Institute of International Education has been at the forefront of international education. The Opening Minds blog is IIE’s take on how this field continues to change. Here the Institute’s leaders will explore international educational exchange, global student mobility, institutional partnerships, international development, and other topics and trends that are shaping higher education around the world.

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