Study abroad programming is a high-impact practice that undeniably affects each participant positively. Yet, how do you describe the transformative outcomes of study abroad when it seems to be immeasurable? If you have ever been a student on a study abroad program, taught as a professor abroad, or hosted a team, you would argue that the value of such experience is overwhelming and undeniable. For you, the value of study abroad has become a truth, not a point of discussion. However, when speaking to someone that has never been involved in study abroad how do you articulate the value? And how does it’s value vary from person to person?
I have been working in the world of study abroad for nearly six years now. In my time working in this industry I have traveled to over 20 countries in the context of study abroad as a student, host, professor, translator, and site evaluator. It was through these various perspectives that I gained a deep appreciation for what study abroad can do for all parties involved. Given my firsthand study abroad involvement from both a university and program provider side, I have found the value of study abroad unparalleled for everyone involved. Yet, it is communicating that value that can make or break someone’s decision to take advantage of study abroad.
So how do you do it? How do you in a practical way leverage buy-in to increase participation from students, faculty, and administrators on campus? Or as a student, how do you discuss going abroad with your parents? Contextualizing the worth of study abroad to someone’s vantage point is key. First acknowledging the worth to that individual is crucial, show them why this should matter to them. Then pull the scope back and show how that fits into the overall picture. In this blog post, you will find significant factors to express the value of study abroad programs to all parties involved.
Value to the Student
- Experiential Learning
I like to think of studying abroad as academics in action. Rather than sitting in a four-walled classroom, students become the boots on the ground. What they are studying begins to take shape as they begin to entangle themselves in contextual learning. As the learning is tied to an experience rather than just a lecture, students are more likely to recall information learned in that course.
We could all agree that the job market students are walking into today has become more competitive than ever before. So how do we assist students in building their portfolio with a competitive advantage? The key is to not only strive for education but also gain experience. The best way for students to do both simultaneously is by interning while also taking classes. Now picture all that in an international context and you immediately have a student that is set apart in the eyes of any hiring manager. When students intern abroad, they are gaining a unique work experience that causes them to interact with people that are different from them which ultimately expands their world view.
With more demanding academic programs and extracurricular activities, students often struggle to find windows in their calendar that allow international travel. Short-term programs fit nice and snug into those calendar breaks making any long-fall break, j-term, spring break, and summer more exciting. This is a unique way to appeal especially to student-athletes and those with more demanding degree programs.
Students recognize that they are learning a lot while studying abroad. Yet, expressing the impact in the right words is challenging. Actually taking the time to explain to students what an employer is looking for and how they may attain those competencies while studying abroad is critical. Upon their return, walk students through identifying moments in their study abroad experience that paint the picture of competencies earned. Through this process, you have essentially set up students as a walking billboard and prepared them with talking points for their upcoming job interviews.
Value to the Leading Faculty
- Ability to Teach Abroad
As difficult as it can be for students to find time to get abroad on a semester program, it is all the more difficult to get professors abroad entirely. Leveraging the blank spaces on the academic calendar enables professors to teach abroad and broaden their course offerings. Imagine an art history professor guiding their students throughout countless cities in Italy. Or a microfinance professor taking their students to Peru to work on microfinance loans with indigenous peoples. By teaching students abroad, professors not only enhance the learning in that particular course but bring a deeper global perspective to the rest of their courses taught on campus.
- Deeper Relationships with Students
There is no better way to get to know someone than to travel with them. When a professor is able to travel with their students, even if only for a week, a unique relationship is built. Gaining trust, intentional mentorship, and truly investing in students on a more individualized level has the potential to propel students forward in confidence and academic excellence.
- Develop Research
Beyond the value of developing relationships with students, professors are able to invest long-term into international partnerships and sites abroad. As professors are able to return to the same location year after year or administer the same course in a rotation of countries, professors are then able to develop research in their areas of expertise. This could take form in various ways such as students assisting in an archeological dig in Israel, measuring pollution levels in particular cities in India over several years, or even operating pop-up clinics routinely in villages in Ecuador to see how community health is impacted by modern medicine.
Value to the University
- High-Impact Practice
The value added to a university derives from the high impact made on a student through studying abroad. Through study abroad, students are able to learn outside the classroom, engage in meaningful interactions with faculty and other classmates, as well as integrate with diverse cultures. All of these factors influence a student’s academic success rate and ultimately impact university retention.
- Global Education
The ability to embrace inclusion and work well with people of diverse backgrounds is essential to campus success. By encouraging global engagement through study abroad, universities expose students to diverse voices which can deepen a student’s overall global perspective. Expanding study abroad programming not only helps students to embrace people of other cultures abroad but also increases inclusion on their home campus upon return.
- Marketing Tool
For all the reasons listed above, study abroad is a key marketing tool. Parents and students alike are looking for a university that is building high-impact practices that will develop their students as life-long learners as well as one who is more employable in their job market. Showcasing NACE competencies acquired by students, research developed abroad, mentoring opportunities, etc. will all draw a student to a university. After all, for many students, a specific study abroad offering is their final deciding factor before landing on one school.
- Retention Method
The University of California Merced has found remarkable data that demonstrates the retention method behind study abroad programming. Not only do 100% of students improve their grade point average post studying abroad, but they are also 19% more likely to continue through graduation. Yes, students will leave campus for a period of time, but the overall return on them leaving campus temporarily is worth knowing they are more likely to return and complete their degree.
Studying abroad is advantageous. Whether a semester program or two weeks long, studying abroad truly holds the ability to be one of if not the single most significant aspect to a student’s college experience. By contextualizing the worth of study abroad to students, faculty, and university administrators, buy-in across campus will grow exponentially. In turn, more students will have the ability to engage deeply with the world through the vehicle of academics.
Blog Post Author
Rachel Roskoski works as the Director of Study Tours with L&LI. Studying abroad twice in her undergrad and twice in her masters, Rachel is passionate about creating opportunities for others to take their academics abroad. Rachel completed her undergraduate in Multi-Disciplinary Studies and a Masters in Business Administration. She loves to travel in her free time and spend time with friends and family.