IIE Blog Opening Minds
IIE Blog Opening Minds

Idea 3: reframe the problem as a K-20 issue and address it at all levels

By: IIE on Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In order to make study abroad an essential part of what it means to be educated, student and family expectations must be addressed at a much younger age. Teachers are key influencers who can help students understand the importance of global awareness early on, and inspire them to be curious about and engaged in the world.

  • Develop a grassroots campaign focused on K-12 with very specific objectives and outreach (including straightforward, clear messages) for elementary and secondary schools.
  • Convene Think Tanks for K-8 and 9-12 separately to identify the road blocks to change and then a way forward. 
  • Work with as many K-12 associations, organizations and groups as possible to join the commitment and spread the word about the importance of an international experience as part of K-20 education; present and sponsor sessions at the many conferences for these associations and organizations. 
  • Train secondary school counselors on the value, relevance and necessity of international education and study abroad opportunities for all students, including FAQs on cost, curriculum and culture.
  • Create clear, concise and interesting materials (toolkits) that reach a diverse audience for secondary school teachers and counselors to use to spark curiosity and interest in study abroad, international engagement and greater global awareness.
  • Leverage diverse study abroad alumni to speak to student and parent groups during high school and the “transition to college” and ensure that they explain key steps to take: 1) Plan and prepare to study abroad, 2) Do the research to help you choose location and program wisely, and 3) Use study abroad to advance your college and professional career (not just fun).
  • Create short-term, intensive international programs for teachers to enable them to experience study abroad first hand.
  • Encourage high schools to work with students to have them get passports at graduation, before heading off to college or technical school. 
  • Build bridges between foreign students in the U.S. and local K-12 schools to share language and culture so as to be mutually beneficial.
  • Pitch the idea of a study abroad adventure to Sesame Street and other popular cable / TV shows, even video games, to begin to get the messages into mainstream culture.
  • Support education faculty and organizations, such as Global Teacher Education (GTE), advocating for a global education component and “student teach abroad” training for all newly certified teachers.

Join the conversation by adding a comment below

This blog entry summarizes Idea 3 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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  • Tracey Friley said:
    6/11/2014 11:24 AM

    The Passport Party Project is an award-winning grassroots initiative that gifts underserved American girls (ages 11-15) with their very first passports. National Geographic Traveler awarded its founder, Tracey Friley, a 2013-14 Traveler of the Year. 100 girls received their first passports in a Phase 1 global awareness initiative with 6 of those 100 traveling to Belize to get their very first passport stamps.

    The Passport Party Project believes that the conversation about travel and/or study abroad should begin BEFORE high school, both in school and in the home. We believe that passports should be in the hands of young people BEFORE they get to high school, whether there is a specific travel opportunity in sight or not.

    And as a small organization operated by volunteer travelers and travel writers, we are doing our best…one passport at a time. #Team #GenerationStudyAbroad

    In 2015, The Passport Party Project will partner with Visit Oakland to bring Oakland youth its first Teen Travel Summit, a weekend fun fest for a select group of local teens ready to travel the world & explore its cultures without leaving their own backyards. #GlobalCitizenshipRocks

  • Kelly Lewis said:
    8/24/2014 10:55 PM

    As a study abroad alumni, I think that diversifying the languages taught in K-12 can raise interest in studying a foreign language or studying abroad, especially in less traditional destinations.

    My high school, like most, only offered European languages -- Spanish, French, and German. But there was also interest among the students in languages like Chinese and Japanese. In my junior year, I had the opportunity to visit Japan through a sister city exchange program, and it changed my life. Having that experience before my senior year led me to search for colleges that offered study abroad programs, because I already knew that I wanted to go back to Japan.

    So I think bringing in new and exciting languages can inspire young students, as well has having international experience and before starting college.

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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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