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

“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 The term itself does not reflect the breadth of study abroad options that have evolved over the years; it is outdated and needs to be changed to reflect the new reality of “study abroad.”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.

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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?”