The full essay appears in the AIFS study abroad advisor newsletter, International Perspectives: http://www.aifsabroad.com/pdf/perspectives_2015.pdf
We’ve recently witnessed a spate of new books authored by policy wonks which aim to re-examine the mission of the university in the United States and whether we need to “unbundle” how we educate students. Their titles are provocative, like The End of College, and they consider rising tuition and debt which burden large numbers of students and their families. Although we’ve left the worst of the recession behind us –especially with a sharp rebound in the unemployment figures which always favor job seekers with college diplomas – there is a lot of attention being given to new thinking regarding the linkage of higher education to the global workforce and the so-called “return on investment” of a college education. What does this challenge to the traditional value –and return on investment -of a college degree have to do with the study abroad field? In my view, quite a lot.
For decades, students going abroad for study, work, or service was viewed as invaluable, and an end unto itself. There was little attention given to all but the intrinsic rewards to the student: gaining a wider world view, maturing through the usual ups and downs of being on your own in a new cultural environment, learning how to fend for oneself in a setting with different “rules” and expectations, and, of course, fulfilling a course requirement or learning to speak a foreign language.
In recent years, the rapid rise in the number of students studying abroad has resulted in greater attention to the deeper and broader reasons which now attract students to international experiential learning – in the classroom or in the community…
I believe there are three consequential extrinsic outcomes of studying abroad:
- Employers value education abroad
- Universities and employers ar forming new partnerships
- Building an international toolkit is an asset in a job search