Is Generation Study Abroad Making a Difference?

This was the question posed at the IIE Summit in October where commitment partners and others came to discuss their progress, present ideas, and forge new partnerships. We are seeing that through our collective impact, the Generation Study Abroad network is making steady progress, sharing effective methods of outreach and engagement to new stakeholders—on and off campus—to reach our goal of doubling study abroad by the end of the decade. And we are also learning what we might need to do differently to reach our “moonshot.”

We are learning the following things through Generation Study Abroad:

  1. By setting a target, higher education institutions can achieve results. IIE announced a call to action to the U.S. higher education community to make a target and to undertake actions to expand study abroad participation significantly. 400 U.S. higher education institutions from across the United States have made an institutional pledge with support of their leadership. The result is that campuses are reaching their goal and seeing demonstrated interest in study abroad by new student populations. By looking at an institution’s data (enrollment figures, who participates in study abroad), campuses are creating informed programming and marketing strategies to get those who are not going abroad. As of October 2016, twelve campuses have reached their Generation Study Abroad goal early and were awarded the IIE Seal of Excellence.


  2. We need to communicate the value of an international experience widely. To reach new audiences, partners in the Generation Study Abroad network are communicating the importance of study abroad to help prepare students graduate successful from college and to be competitive in the job market. As a benefit to joining Generation Study Abroad, IIE supports partners with a press and social media kit and encourages partners to work with their local media outlets to highlight their commitment and feature local champions for study abroad, including faculty, trustees, and study abroad alumni. Participation in social media campaigns, International Education Week, and local events emphasizes the “glocal” perspective and brings international education as a central component to an institution/ organization’s’ culture and environment.

  3. The power of collaboration. The broad spectrum of stakeholders in the Generation Study Abroad network includes higher education institutions, education associations, study abroad organizations, the K-12 and language community, and international partners. These partners are building bridges across the network to move towards our collective vision of creating the opportunity to study abroad for thousands of U.S. students.

  4. And most importantly, perhaps, we are learning that we need to expand the definition of study abroad. I have met many young adults who say that they didn’t study abroad but in fact they did! They spent a gap year in Ecuador or did an internship in Singapore in their senior year of college, but they felt that their campuses did not provide them with support or they went on their own. These individuals often are the most supportive champions of study abroad but don’t consider themselves to be study abroad alumni.

The latest Open Doors report shows that noncredit activities such as work, internships, and volunteerism, are growing, yet according to IIE’s Report, “The World is the New Classroom” we know many institutions do not collect this data. Higher education institutions need to redefine their definition of study abroad so that it encompasses a broad array of activities abroad that address the learning needs of different types of students and fields of study.

Thank you to the 700+ partners who have pledged already. Your commitment to Generation Study Abroad is making a difference. We now need your help to get more partners on board so that every U.S. student has an opportunity to have an international experience by the time they graduate college.