Would you like to study abroad? Do you know of any study abroad programs?
Keep reading as we just got back from The White House summit and learned about their exciting new initiative on this very topic.
Technically Craig and I have never studied aboard. Not in the sense of doing a semester of a college or Uni degree in a foreign country.
But, I did do my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate in Dublin and I studied pretty hard each time I arrived in a new place to live and teach.
We’ve also lived and worked in four foreign countries so we pretty much understand what study aboard is about and its benefits. Now that I’ve traveled for over 16 years I really wish I did study aboard. I can’t think of anything more exciting than to be a young college student learning in a foreign country.
The day before we attended the White House Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship we met with a reader of our blog for coffee in Georgetown.
Madeline is a local from DC and was super excited to meet us as she’s planning to follow her heart and move to New Zealand for a working holiday experience. She didn’t realize it was possible until she discovered travel blogs like ours and saw that people actually do create a lifestyle around travel.
This is why travel blogs are useful and inspiring and why 100 travel bloggers and digital media peeps were invited to the White House for this event.
It’s because we live the life others most dream about. We show them it’s possible and then we show them how they can do it.
Madeline’s intense desire to move to New Zealand came from her study abroad experience in Dunedin for a semester. It opened her eyes to another world of possibility and made her think that the current normal path she was on was perhaps not what was best for her.
Isn’t it awesome to discover that now before you’ve gone ten years down the career path and realize your heart is heavy with a lack of meaning and you missed the boat by not traveling more to discover it?
Because I believe the true power of travel is how we discover who we truly are and what we want and then go on to create a life that is in tune with that.
There are also hundreds of other benefits, which I’d love to share with you here through many amazing quotes below that we heard during our time at the summit. Each of these got a huge hell yeah fist pump for me.
Why is the White House making study abroad such a big focus?
It is crucial for our country’s next generation of leaders to travel, live, work, intern or volunteer abroad in order to gain the skills needed to understand and operate within the global political and economic landscape of the 21st century. It is in America’s national interest, writ large, to build and sustain a globally minded and internationally literate workforce, not just for government, but for private industry and society more broadly. – Assistant Secretary Evan White
Of course, it benefits society as a whole to have more globally minded people living in it. So it’s an important conversation for the White House to have and to create study abroad programs and opportunities to help students.
The White House wants to see an increase in the representation of people studying abroad so that it is more diverse and includes an increase of those from minority groups.
Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more programs, grants and scholarships come out to assist those from these minority backgrounds who otherwise would not be in a position to take advantage of studying abroad.
This should be an experience that is available to all, not just those who are in the fortunate position to afford it.
The White House announced at the summit that they have created a new U.S. Study Abroad Office, which will manage some of the premier study abroad programs and advocate alongside the broader community for the benefits of study abroad.
Why study abroad?
Education abroad is an asset that someone can take with them throughout their lives. This is really not limited to just students.
Anyone can study abroad at any time as Robert Reid from National Geographic tweeted:
I study abroad. Every time I leave the country. #WHTravelBloggers
— Robert Reid (@reidontravel) December 9, 2014
But to start this trans-formative journey outside your boundaries and comfort zones at such a young age is exhilarating and life-changing. Now that I know how valuable travel is on a personal and professional level, I would have jumped at the chance.
My most memorable and life changing experiences have been living and working abroad. It was through these experiences that I got to know myself on a much deeper level and discovered I had strengths and confidence that I never believed could have existed in me.
I have the most amazing memories from forming new friendships that crossed all borders, to the more challenging ones like trying to find my way around the tube system when I first arrived in London without any money. It’s an empowering journey.
“Travel opens doors for young people to cross socio-economic, cultural, and geographic borders to engage in people-to-people connections, to increase mutual understanding, and to collectively solve global challenges.” – Edward R Murrow
I’m excited that government is talking about these issues, recognizing the need to raise awareness for American students to take that giant leap of faith into this new international world so that it may benefit their own professional and personal lives as well as that of an American future that respectfully and compassionately participates in a global world. It’s something all countries need to be focusing more on raising awareness about.
Personal benefits of study abroad (a.k.a travel)
Travel opens your mind to discover and appreciate other customs, backgrounds, and traditions, ultimately making us more willing and able to find common ground.
It also helps you to discover yourself and appreciate that a little more. There are so many personal benefits to travel. Here are a few of my favourite quotes from the summit on how travel can change your life.
- “Travel is a fresh start. One of the few things that creates a new beginning” – Samantha Brown
- “Time slows down when you travel” – Alex Montoya
- “Travel is the time to fail and be humiliated. Living in the uncomfort zone is not a bad way to feel.” Samantha Brown
- “You start with zero confidence, but bit by bit it elevates and by the end of the week you can order a cup of coffee in another language and you’re flying.” Samantha Brown
- “The emotional value of travel lies in experiences, not to do lists. It’s where you discover who you are and what you want to be in life.Study and work aboard are what give you these deeper experiences.” – Samantha Brown
- “Travel is the first step into a wider world – Robert Reid
- “You develop greater cultural sensitivities and appreciation for the beautiful mosaic that is our world today.” Penny Pritzer
- “99% of the time you come back from travel saying my life is better.” Don Wildman
- “Not only do you learn about new cultures but you become an ambassador for your own culture, helping to shape global perceptions, in a positive way. (we hope!)” Ben Rhodes
- “Study abroad is often considered the pivotal event of young people’s lives. It is the moment the world is opened up to them and their preconceived notions are turned upside down.” Evan Ryan
- “Travel teaches us that our similarities are more than our differences” – Penny Pritzer
- “Learning another language even at a basic level, is an olive branch between two cultures” Patrick Dowd
Professional benefits of study abroad
“More and more companies are looking and recruiting more global minded students for future leaders.” – Angel Cabrera (President of George Mason University)
So the common theme amongst all speakers from experience and from stats that were shared is that recruiters are now actively seeking candidates with global experiences.
They realize these experiences actually help to make people better problem solvers, and more open minded with the ability to think outside the box.
“Global skills are more about temperament than intellect. Travel enhances that temperament” – Millenial Trains Project
Success leaves clues and it spoke loudly to me to see that all the members of the administration that spoke, most of the panel members, and many in the room had all studied abroad.
The world is now a very globally connected world. Your prospects for job and career expand significantly with study or work abroad experiences because you are in touch with that global world and have a better understanding of how to approach it in business and life.
“More and more employers want to hire people with a true “world view” – with the adaptability and openness that comes with having experienced other cultures. In fact, a MetLife survey found that 65 percent of Fortune 1000 executives identified global awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career” – Penny Pritzker (Secretary of Commerce)
I know my experiences teaching abroad helped me to become a better teacher and I was hired at a school upon return home because I had worked abroad and my principal, who did the same in the 60’s, knew the benefits of it. It’s amazing the new pathways that people take in their professional life because of travel.
The VIF program that I was a part of when teaching in the United States was created by two brothers in North Carolina who studied abroad and saw the benefits of global education. It’s now a company that changes the lives of thousands of American students and teachers around the world.
Robert Reid shared a quote he had heard from a previous study abroad National Geographic student:
This was the exact reason why we started y Travel Blog. I had a burning desire to do something with all I had learned and create something from it. Travel helps you discover what that thing is you can create.
It’s a journey that you feel more in control of than just graduating from college with a degree and then finding a job that fits.
Yes, study abroad can cost a considerable amount of money, but find a way to make it work because it will earn you more in the long run.
And if you can’t make study abroad work due to cost, then look into how you can work abroad once your studies have finished. The benefits are the same. (Remember, if you work abroad you don’t have to save as much before you go traveling!)
What does our community have to say?
We asked our Facebook community if they had studied abroad and the impact it had on their lives. We had a huge response and it was so wonderful to hear the impact it had on their lives and futures. You can read their answers here.
Best places to study abroad?
Where does your heart call you? Do you want to learn a new language? Maybe an extreme exotic experience?
The summit spoke about how most American students study abroad in either Spain, France or London and they are hoping to expand the number of destinations to places such as Latin America and Asia.
I’m sure you will see many programs and grants that will cater to that diversified direction the government is hoping for.
I still believe that you should go where your heart is calling you, so if that is Paris then go there. But, if the best options to make it more possible for you are these regions then go for that too.
Any study abroad experience in any destination is worthwhile.
What about the cost of study abroad?
Everyone at the summit, even the officials, agreed that cost is the biggest barrier to more students studying abroad. It’s the biggest barrier to anyone wanting to travel in any form.
Education costs in America are huge, so the added expense of studying abroad is just not feasible for many people. More has to be done to lower college tuition fees so that students don’t carry mounting student loans and to bring in more programs to help those at a financial disadvantage to study abroad.
For college students, it’s a good idea to talk to your college adviser who can point you towards various scholarships and grants that can help ease the burden of cost.
We’ve always traveled following the work abroad strategy so we did not need as much money to travel with as we earned as we traveled.
Study abroad resources
Here are a few resources for you to discover how you can make a study abroad experience work for you with financial constraints:
- The US Virtual Study Abroad Fair will take place on February 25th 2015 on-line and everywhere. This will help students and their families learn more about study abroad topics, such as choosing a program, learning how to finance studying abroad, applying for scholarships and preparing for study abroad, the value of study abroad for careers and job prospects.
- National Security Language Initiative for Youth and the Critical Language Scholarship programs offer U.S. high school and college students fully-funded intensive summer language institutes overseas in a number of critical foreign languages.
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program targets populations traditionally underrepresented in study abroad by offering scholarships for academic studies or career-oriented internships abroad to U.S. undergraduate students who receive Pell grants.
- Fulbright U.S. Student Program is sending a record number of American students overseas this coming year. These recent college graduates, graduate students, and early career professionals will conduct research in large cities and small villages across the globe, engaging with local citizens and becoming part of the fabric of their overseas community, while also gaining important linguistic and cultural skills. The Fulbright Program continues to innovate and find new ways to engage talented, highly motivated Americans early in their careers.
- Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship will allow fellows to research and share narratives on globally significant issues through new media platforms, hopefully encouraging the next generation of student travelers.
- Peace Corps: I love how the director of Peace corp, Carrie Hessler-Radelet said that you can enter the Peace Corp broke and they will take care of you. The Peace Corps offers a range of programs and benefits to help ease the cost of your college tuition.
We hope that by sharing this information here it might help potential students find the support they need to make this a reality.
If study abroad is something you want to do then take the time to search through these resources and find a scholarship or grant that is right for you.
I think it’s important that the US government finds a way to let students know of all the programs that are available to them, otherwise they probably won’t look for themselves thinking it will never be a reality.
Worried about study abroad?
We find the following are the five main reasons why people won’t travel. You may have these same obstacles when thinking about studying abroad. (Click each link to read our tips on how you can overcome these.)
- I don’t want to leave family and friends
- I have too many responsibilities
- My career will suffer
- It’s not safe
- I don’t have the money
Of course for students some of the other concerns are:
- Missing curriculum and a loss of progress – Talk to your advisers about how this works and what credit you can receive.
- Missing events and parties – You can go to foreign ones instead. And they’ll be there when you return.
- Intimidating to navigate a foreign life – It seems intimidating to you now because you haven’t left yet, but once you immerse yourself in a new culture you will love this navigation process. It is full of surprising twists and turns and delightful finds.
From my experiences, there are hundreds of things you can worry about.
But, we can never predict the future so making decisions based upon your future thought projections is futile. We must make decisions based upon what we know to be true now.
You won’t have all the answers, but you can pretty much figure out a plan, and then a backup plan just in case your original plan doesn’t work out.
I’ve lived and worked in five countries (including Australia). Every time I leapt with a lot of fear, never knowing how things would work, but believing that I was leaping into one amazing adventure that would transform my life and teach me more about myself and the world than any form of education or job would ever do.
I have absolutely no regrets and my life is so much better because of it.
You are more powerful than you think and can figure out almost any challenge you encounter along the way AND you’ll discover that the world is full of amazing people who will rush to help you figure it out too.