Globalization is here to stay, and students who want to work in our interconnected global world should study abroad.
Despite the inevitable increasing global competition for jobs, American graduates lack the international experience, language capabilities and cross-cultural communication skills necessary to succeed in the global economy. With only about 10 percent of students studying abroad at some point in their academic career, we have a long way to go.
Making study abroad a part of their education is the most effective and accessible means for students to develop needed skills because it pushes a student to get out of her comfort zone to experience another culture, language, environment and education system. It teaches students to appreciate difference and diversity firsthand, and enables them to recognize — and then dismiss — stereotypes they may have held about people they had never met.
Learning how to interact with people from other countries and cultures equips future leaders in all sectors to address urgent issues — from curing diseases and finding energy solutions, to fighting terrorism and hunger — shared across borders.
But study abroad has to be done correctly. It shouldn’t be a separate or tangential part of education, but rather an integrated part of the curriculum, incorporating proper cross-cultural preparation and supportive reintegration to help students understand and internalize what they learn.
With more flexible and accessible options, the barriers posed by financial need, disabilities, race and ethnicity and sexual orientation are crumbling. Excellent programs and inspiring role models exist for every type of student. Every parent, teacher, professor, adviser and employer should support making international experience an essential and affordable component of a well-rounded education.