Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large)
With shorter programs, different majors and more exotic destinations, college study abroad programs have evolved since the days of homestays and year-long immersions. We explore how study abroad programs are changing in the 21st century, as institutions try to attract a larger and more diverse group of students to spend time overseas.
- Karin Fischer Senior reporter, Chronicle of Higher Education
- Mark Salisbury Director of Institutional Research and Assessment at Augustana College and co-author of the book "Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose: Study Abroad in a New Global Century"
- Brian Whalen President and CEO, Forum on Education Abroad
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. From Shanghai to Buenos Aires and everywhere in between, students have a world of options when it comes to studying abroad. But even as universities expand the scope of their programs, many students are still choosing to stay at home during their college years.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAt the same time, study abroad is changing. Schools are looking at the way they're marketing their programs. And now, even engineering and pre-med students can find themselves going overseas. And while colleges and employers alike see the benefits of the cultural education a student can receive from going abroad, institutions are now attempting to shape their message to fit the way today's students are approaching higher education.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to discuss study abroad in the 20th century is Karin Fischer. She is a senior reporter covering global topics for The Chronicle on Higher Education. She joins us in our Washington studio. Karin Fischer, thank you for joining us.
MS. KARIN FISCHERThanks for having me.
NNAMDIJoining us from studios in Harrisburg, Pa. is Brian Whalen. He is the president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad. That's an organization that develops and disseminates a comprehensive Standards of Good Practice for the field of education abroad. Brian Whalen, thank you for joining us.
MR. BRIAN WHALENThank you, Kojo. Great to be here with you.
NNAMDIGood to have you. And joining us by phone from Rock Island, Ill., is Mark Salisbury. Mark is the director of institutional research and assessment at Augustana College. He is the co-author of the monograph "Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose: Study Abroad in a New Global Century." Mark Salisbury, thank you for joining us.
MR. MARK SALISBURYHi, Kojo. Nice to be here.
NNAMDIWe invite you all to join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. How important do you think it is for students to go overseas? You can also send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. Brian Whalen, every year, thousands of college students hop on a plane, go overseas to study. What does a typical study abroad experience consist of, and how has this changed over the past two decades or so?
WHALENThanks for that question, Kojo. As you asked, did I saw -- gee, summer, actually, on ships. We have shipboard education as well, and, of course, that was the old way of doing things. Looking back 30, 40, 50, even longer, back in time, typically a student would study abroad for a full year in one location, and the goal was often to immerse the student in the foreign language, the target language of the country in which the program was located.
WHALENAnd they would spend their time there. Normally, they were humanities majors. Now, today, we have a great variety of programs, and it's really impossible to say that there's one characteristic common across all of those programs. They come in all shapes and sizes from different major fields. And I think part of what's driving this is the creativity of the individual faculty members who are involved.
WHALENWe have programs in the professional fields, in law, health care, in the STEM fields, as you mentioned, in the humanities and social sciences, and they're all over the world now. Where they have been clustered before, mainly in Western Europe, now students have the world at their doorstep. They can choose programs on all continents and study in all fields.
WHALENSo it is a time of excitement in the field as we develop these programs and teach students about local people and cultures, but also give them the global knowledge, skills and attitudes that they need to become participants in our emerging global society. And as you say, more and more students each year are taking advantage of this opportunity, and institutions are developing programs and also developing ways to assess the outcomes of these programs.
NNAMDIKarin Fischer, what fields are we seeing growing abroad?
FISCHERYou know, I think we're -- as you say, I think they're trying to grow programs in nontraditional fields, and that's in part a response to the fact that, typically, students in the humanities and in foreign languages were the ones who went abroad. But if you think about it, a field like engineering is highly global. The people who are engineering majors are from all over the world.
FISCHERIt's quite likely, as an engineer, you might have to work in another part of the world as well on a project. And so you see a lot of these particularly nontraditional programs that Brian mentioned, shorter programs, sometimes programs structured around particular projects that really try to get students overseas for something that can seem very much tied to their major and tied to what they want to do with their life.
NNAMDIMark Salisbury, college is seen by a lot of students and parents as a means to an end, something to check off on the way to getting a job, with its powers to expand a student's thinking often overlooked. Has this always been the case? And how does this affect how students see study abroad?
SALISBURYThat's a great question because the real -- the goals of study abroad really have shifted in a way, or I guess maybe a better way of saying it are in the process of still shifting. As Brian and Karin mentioned, the original thought of study abroad was to, you know, take students into another culture. They learn the foreign language. They actually get to use it in that culture or to see great works of art in France and Italy.
SALISBURYAnd now study abroad really talks about -- really begun to talk about what are the learning outcomes of study abroad and how different experiences can develop really important abilities to develop or to shift perspectives, to see situations through different lenses and to do it, as Karen talked about, to do things that are really important in the global society that we live in.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, we're talking studying abroad. Did you go abroad in college? What did you gain from that experience? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Brian, there are a lot of intangible benefits of study abroad, but it's hard to put a letter grade on someone's, oh, cultural immersion or personal maturation as a result of going overseas. Is there any research being done on the outcomes of study abroad?
WHALENThere is a lot of research being conducted, Kojo, and it is increasing every year. I published an academic journal on study abroad research. When that was founded in 1994, we received very few manuscripts. This year, we received over 85 manuscripts from different fields of study looking at various outcomes of education abroad programming. So it is now being studied more earnestly, and I think that more needs to be done.
WHALENWe need better approaches to studying the outcomes of education abroad. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact outcomes, and one of the reasons for that, I believe, is for many students, it's a very powerful learning experience, and they often have difficulty articulating its meaning until many years later. I've done my own research and looked at the ways in which alumni of college and -- colleges and universities think back on their educational experiences, including study abroad alumni.
WHALENAnd what fascinates me is the ways in which those students who study abroad keep those memories alive, keep learning from the experiences throughout the course of their life. That is true lifelong learning. I think that that is one of the benefits that we see with this type of experience, that the memory remains vibrant.
WHALENThe memory continues to educate those alumni many years later. But to be able to document that and show how that works is quite a complex task. It's something, actually, that Mark is quite good at and I think has done some very important research in this realm. But we need many more efforts along those lines.
NNAMDICare to comment, Mark?
SALISBURYOther than to say thanks for the plug, Brian. No, I think Brian's exactly right. And actually, part of what you asked me in your first question, Kojo, I think, is relevant to this. Oftentimes students and families think about a college education -- and sometimes colleges contribute to this sort of misnomer that the college experience is a series of box to check off. You finish your general education experiences. You -- or your courses.
SALISBURYYou get yourself a major and a minor. You might get yourself an internship. You might study abroad, and you sort of check off each box on the way to graduation, and then hopefully getting a job. And the way that learning works, it doesn't really work as if each of those things are independent experiences with independent learning outcomes that don't overlap of each other.
SALISBURYAnd, in fact, study abroad is a great example of a learning experience where the learning that can coalesce from that, that really can take shape and become a permanent fixture in a person's life trajectory. All of that coming together doesn't occur just in the study abroad experience itself. Like a lot of things in life, you sort of get thrown into an uncomfortable situation or get pushed outside of your comfort zone.
SALISBURYAnd then you have to have an experience after that where you sort of step back into a place that's a little bit more comfortable and make sense of the experience. And for -- in the -- some of the work that I've done and some of the work that I think Brian is referring to is this notion that we're getting to a place where we understand that study abroad can be a powerful experience. We also know that sometimes it isn't.
SALISBURYAnd we're figuring out that some of the things that have to happen happen during the study abroad experience. But other things that have to happen to make that study abroad experience as powerfully educational as it can be are things that happen prior to the study abroad experience and things that happen afterwards that the institution organizers or that the student takes the initiative to access so that they can begin to articulate some of that learning and to make sense of it.
NNAMDILet's see what the study abroad experience did for Robin in Falls Church, Va. Robin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROBINGood morning, Kojo. How are you?
ROBINWell, I just wanted to let you know that I talk to every college student, college-age student I can to encourage them to study abroad. I did my junior year abroad in college, and not only was it -- I tell everyone I learned more that year than I learned in any of my years of schooling put together, just living in such a different environment. But also we had all this opportunity to travel once we were abroad, too.
ROBINSo I think that's an extra added benefit that, you know, you get to see not just maybe one culture, but many cultures. And when I came back to my university on Long Island, I was just stunned at how unworldly my classmates were because they had never had an experience anything like I had. So I would highly encourage anybody who can to go abroad for any amount of study they can.
NNAMDIRobin, where did you do your study abroad in your junior year, and why did you choose to study abroad?
ROBINWell, I studied abroad. I was in Jerusalem, which has -- seems to be one of the most fascinating cities in the world. So I took archaeology where we met at the Old City every week for our class. It was in our textbook. We were just looking at it. And I just fell in love with traveling. I was lucky enough to get to travel as a youth -- on a youth trip when I was 16.
ROBINAnd I said, I want to do this when I go to college. And I spent my -- 'cause my parents wouldn't let me go if I -- unless I got a scholarship and loan, which I did, so it allowed me to go abroad through the State University of New York program as if I was studying at State University of New York. I don't have to pay any extra money for that.
NNAMDIRobin, thank you very much for sharing that experience with us. Karin, Robin's remark underscores that there's a significant gender gap in who goes abroad, even more so than the one in education in general. It's my understanding that, well, maybe about 60 percent of the students who go abroad are women. Why are men not opting to go abroad in the same proportion?
FISCHERYou know, I think that's something that puzzles a lot of people in universities, and they've been trying to - they think about it. I mean, as you said, of course, there are more women pursuing college degrees than men, so that is a piece of it. But also I think folks are beginning to say is there something about the way that that we talk about study abroad, about the value of study abroad that doesn't resonate with male students as well as it does with women.
FISCHERSo are women students more likely to buy into this whole talk of personal transformation, or male students frankly perhaps more practically minded and want to see, OK, what are the actual outcomes, how is this going to help me, how is this going to get -- help me in my degree and in my future? And so that may be part of it.
FISCHERThere's, you know, there's a couple of other things going on which is, again, traditionally, even though we were talking about, you know, engineering students, for example, going abroad, still, you know, you do see a lot more students from the humanities going overseas. And so if you look at where male students are enrolled, what their degree programs are, maybe they're just not in programs where students typically go abroad.
FISCHERBecause I think something that is very helpful -- I mean, the way that Robin was talking about how she talks about her experience and encourages people, it's very important for students, particularly the students who are not the traditional students who go abroad -- white, middle class women -- to see somebody else who looks like them going overseas and talking about the value of this experience. And if 60 percent of your students who are going overseas are women, then men may not feel like this is the thing for me.
NNAMDIIn addition to which, Brian Whalen, we've got a tweet from David who asks: How important is it to diversify the U.S. study population abroad? The world needs to see all of the faces from the U.S. Minorities too are apparently underrepresented, Brian?
WHALENYes. That's a great point from David. And I thank him for tweeting that. That is a big challenge in our field. While we have diversified the numbers of majors, the types of programs, the destinations, the faculty involved, all of this is very good news. The challenge that we have had and we have not been successful in meeting it is to diversify the student profile and have more ethnic diversity represented in our study abroad programs.
WHALENThis is similar to the gender problem that we've had which we haven't made progress on in all of these years. There are successful models for recruiting more male students and more diverse students to participate in our study abroad programs. And we need to showcase those. We talk about this a lot at our conferences and events. And we are making some progress, I believe. If you look at some of the latest data regarding diversity, we're making some slow progress.
WHALENOne of the keys I think and this is important for institutions to realize is that we need to change our advising systems, and we need to reach students where they are and tailor our messaging. I think Karin's point is an excellent one that we need to think about the way that we describe these programs, the way we market these programs, the way that we support students individually as they think about studying abroad.
WHALENWe can't think of them as groups of students. We need to really meet them as individuals because it is a big decision, and it's different for every type of student who thinks about how they should study abroad. But I think David's point is an excellent one. We - our students who study abroad do represent our country, the United States. And we want to represent our society fully, and that means having a wide diversity of students participating in our programs.
NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break. If you have calls, stay on the line. If you're still trying to join the conversation, the phone lines are busy, so send us an email to email@example.com or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on studying abroad. We're talking with Mark Salisbury. He's the director of Institutional Research and Assessment at Augustana College. He's co-author of the monograph "Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose: Study Abroad in a New Global Century." He is coauthor of the monograph "Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose: Study Abroad in a New Global Century."
NNAMDIBrian Whalen is the president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, an organization that develops and disseminates a comprehensive standards of good practice for the field of education abroad, and Karin Fischer is a senior reporter covering global topics for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I'll go directly to the phones where Michael in Washington, D.C., awaits us. Michael, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MICHAELHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I actually serve as president and CEO of Youth For Understanding USA which does international exchange at the high school level. And I want to thank you panelists for the insight they're bringing. I -- the part of this that I'd love to introduce to your panelists in the topic is the notion that international exchange actually helps our young people with global career opportunities.
MICHAELWe're placing about 2,000 young people from around the globe right now in the United States, and what we hear from them is that they believe and experience has shown that they'll be more competitive in finding jobs later. We're also seeing major corporations in the United States and those that have an international footprint investing in this field because they believe that the employees that they'll recruit will be more competitive.
MICHAELIt's fascinating to see the sea change because this is not happening so much in the U.S. The number of U.S. students going abroad seems to be shrinking while our global partners are sending more and more people to the United States. I'd love to have your panelists talk a little bit about how studying abroad actually makes our own citizens more globally competitive into this marketplace.
NNAMDIAnd, Mark Salisbury, you can add to that the other issue that Michael raised and that is the percentage of students electing to study abroad seems to be relatively flat. Go ahead, please.
SALISBURYWell, it's an interesting question that Michael raises. The -- to address your first question, it's something where the -- well, the number of students that study abroad grows every year. As a proportion of the number of students in post-secondary education generally, it remains relatively flat.
SALISBURYAnd so one can either say that participation to study abroad is growing, and that's wonderful. Or you can look at the numbers and say, well, the proportion isn't changing all that much nor the distributions across gender and race within that proportion changing all that much. So I guess it's sort of which way you want to look at that.
SALISBURYBut it is something that raises a couple of interesting questions about whether -- people have mentioned that, and some of the research that I've done is the question of how funding is constructed for study abroad and whether institutions -- I think, like, an earlier caller, Robin, mentioned that they can use their -- the cost of attending their own institution transfers to a study abroad experience, or whether they have to spend an additional amount of money to study abroad over and above tuition, which is rising at pretty high rates as we all know.
SALISBURYSo these are the things that play into sort of shaping this issue and situating it in the larger higher education context is sort of important.
NNAMDIMichael, thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Allison in Bethesda, Md. Hi, Allison.
ALLISONHi, Kojo. Thank you so much for having me on the line.
ALLISONI just wanted to say about my own personal study abroad experience was incredibly transformative to me. It gave me an inordinate amount of self-confidence just from living in a different culture and being able to learn and communicate in a different language and really learn how to connect with people in a different language.
ALLISONAnd I think that it also provides a great opportunity for people to understand that their -- people in different countries that live in completely different ways and then that's OK too. And kind of just getting a general understanding of humanity is being this incredibly diverse range of cultures and ways of living.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Allison. In addition to that, Allison, we have an email from Aaron in Raleigh, N.C., who said, "My youngest studied abroad in Ghana and fell in love with Africa. I'd also like to suggest that families who value international experiences consider hosting an exchange student during an academic year in high school. That's a wonderful way to introduce another culture to your children, encourage critical and independent learning and can provide quite a natural segue to studying abroad in college."
NNAMDIBut then, Brian Whalen, there's this email from John, "As a parent, I have a jaundiced eye towards study abroad. Please ask experts if study abroad fees create a net positive or negative cash flow for the college. I know it's a negative financial proposition for the parents. Why do I pay the full $40,000 per year for my kid to live in an inexpensive country?" Brian Whalen.
WHALENOh, that's a great question and a complex one…
WHALEN...because, you know, higher education has not done a very good job overall. I don't believe in explaining the relationship between price, cost and value, you know, what it cost to educate a student, why the price is what it is and what the value of the educational experience is. And study abroad, of course, fits into that equation. In general, you know, study abroad is an expensive program to run on the scale of looking at academic programs on a campus, you know, looking from English departments to physics departments.
WHALENStudy abroad, you know, would fall on the side of being quite an expensive operation to maintain. Our standards of good practice certainly say that institutions should try to make study abroad as accessible as possible and as affordable as possible for as many students at the institution. Having said that, you know, institutions have many different models for charging what they do.
WHALENSome would charge the home fees, the home tuition room and board equivalent, some just the tuition equivalent, some would have the student take a leave of absence and pay the provider organization or the overseas university directly and maybe charge a fee on top of that. So our studies of how this practice works shows that there a variety of models. So it is difficult to generalize.
WHALENBut what I would say is institutions need to be very transparent regarding what they charge and where the funding goes, how the institution funds the study abroad operation and what services are provided to students. And parents and students both should be able to access that information very easily on a website or from a written material. They have the right to know that information.
NNAMDIKarin Fischer, is the cost factor one that can be off-putting both for parents and sometimes for students themselves?
FISCHERYou know, it's enormously big challenge, and you can see, in fact, in the years where the economy has really been suffering. You can see it in the study in broad numbers. That said, there are often sources of money out there.
FISCHERIf colleges are really serious, they often offer scholarships to help encourage students go abroad or develop programs that students can go that they can take their financial aid with them or that they can go for a shorter period of time, say, on a spring break or in the beginning of a summer period which would still allow students to then spend their summer vacation working and earning money, and so it's not a cost to them. But it's also about how colleges talk about that issue and how aware they make students.
FISCHERI think somebody said earlier, he really -- colleges need to think about talking to students about this and to parents about this very early on so that they can plan for it. You know, if you knew that your child was going to go abroad when they were a junior, you might start thinking about that when they were a freshman. And the other thing that colleges can do is if they have money available, they can do things, frankly, in marketing ways that help them become aware of it.
FISCHERAnd actually, Mark's college has done something very sort of -- that's been kind of effective in getting students who are in the middle income or lower income to go abroad, and it's simply by setting aside some money that says, use it or lose it. You can only use this money for doing some research or interning or for studying abroad, and it's yours. But you've got to lay claim to it. And so that's helped sort of give the message to students that there is some assistance out there if they just are willing to kind of take it.
NNAMDIMark, I guess, financial incentives for students does help.
SALISBURYIt's -- Karin is exactly right that it's an inching combination of, one, setting the framework in place so that the funding isn't a really daunting obstacle but then also setting it up in such a way so that a student doesn't -- especially, students who come from lower income backgrounds where, you know, it's a process to get from thinking about studying abroad to actually departing on a program.
SALISBURYAnd if a student is thinking about the possibility of going through or jumping through all of those hoops but they know that the funding issue is a big question and won't be resolved until they jumped through a series of other hoops, they're much less likely to jump through some of those initial hoops to go in and meet with study abroad advisor and start to try to plan a curriculum if they don't know later on whether the money is going to be there to make that project work.
SALISBURYSo what we did at Augustana College is we just simply said, this is something we really care about and something we really know matters for student learning. So what we'll do is we'll just set that money aside at the front and start the very beginning of the conversation where the students are even considering to come to Augustana and saying, you have $2,000 that you can use to study abroad.
SALISBURYNow, we've eliminated the money question or largely eliminated the money question. Now, let's talk about how that might happen. And it's been amazing to see how those students, once you remove that from their list of I don't know if this is going to happen, suddenly begin to think about and start strategizing to make the most of their college experience in a way that was very different from the way they were doing it before.
NNAMDIAnd, Brian, one of the things we've seen that studying abroad programs have been changing in a way, in the last several years, is the larger number of students going abroad for just a few weeks over the summer, as opposed to a semester or, as was once the norm, a full year. Why are we seeing this change toward shorter stints overseas?
WHALENYes, Kojo. It's 55 percent of the students who study abroad go on a short-term program now defined as eight weeks or less. So that's a big change from 25, 30 years ago. In fact, I have a colleague who has done a study where he's added up the number of credit hours earned on study abroad, and if you compare the number of credit hours earned 25 years ago with today, there's been no progress.
WHALENIt's the same number of credit hours. But we have more students studying abroad today. They are in shorter programs. One of the reasons, we have a greater number of faculty involved in study abroad now, and I think that's because this generation -- a faculty who have entered our universities and colleges over the last five to 10, 15 years -- they themselves studied abroad perhaps. They conducted research abroad.
WHALENThey're globally connected through the Internet and through attending conferences outside of the U.S., meeting foreign counterparts. And they want to be involved in study abroad, and the easiest way for them to do that is to organize a short-term program. And they are very enthusiastic about those programs and recruit students for them.
WHALENThey're well integrated into the curriculum, so there's a lot of positive elements to that model. However, it does mean that, for many students, it will become their study abroad experience. At some institutions, they try to encourage students to do a short-term program as an entry point for study abroad and then return for a longer term experience.
WHALENThat may not be for every student, but I know that that is a way that certain institutions are trying to operate. So that is one of the reasons, and I think students also find that they can have it both ways. They don't need to leave a campus. They can take part in all of the activities that they enjoy and take courses that they would like on the main campus and still have a study abroad experience by enrolling in a short-term program.
NNAMDIAs for students who may decide to do it even earlier than college, here is Robin in Washington, D.C. Robin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROBINYes, Kojo. I am a former high school exchange student. I also studied abroad in college, and I'm currently a volunteer and host family for high school exchange program in -- that's international, the AFS program. My experience also, having functioned as a liaison to the -- my local school system in getting the incoming students admitted, is that some high schools don't really understand the value of having international exchange students, especially in this area where there are so many international families.
ROBINThey don't understand that international exchange students bring a very different perspective, that their very unusual, mature, adventurous, young people and they are a very positive influence on the school. We also have a lot of trouble getting high school guidance counselors to encourage students and parents here to send their children abroad. It's much easier to find people to host a foreign student for a year than to send their own child abroad for a year.
ROBINAnd I'd really like to encourage universities to emphasize the value that they find in having an incoming freshman who had studied abroad as a high school student and have high school guidance counselors emphasize that as well so that students understand that you don't have to wait till your junior year of college to go abroad. In fact, the earlier you do it, the more value you add to your chances of getting to the college you want to and ultimately having an international career.
NNAMDIAnd with that, Robin, we're going to have to take a short break. But thank you very much for your call and for making that suggestion. We're going to be right back. But if you'd like to join the conversation, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you had absolutely no interest in studying abroad in college, what made you want to stay home? 800-433-8850, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're having a conversation about studying abroad with Mark Salisbury. He is the director of institutional research and assessment at Augustana College and co-author of the monograph "Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose: Study Abroad in a New Global Century." Karin Fischer is a senior reporter covering global topics for the Chronicle on Higher Education.
NNAMDIAnd Brian Whalen is the president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, which develops and disseminates comprehensive standards of good practice for the field of education abroad. We got an email from Julia in Washington. "You have mentioned programs in the humanities and even engineering, but I am interested in the landscape for study abroad for chemistry. Can any of your panelists touch on the future and the importance of exchange of research internationally?"
NNAMDIMark, I'm going to ask you if you can provide a response to that because while the number of students going abroad has remained flat, the number of programs and the number of countries has increased exponentially. Where can students go today? What can they study that they might not have been able to before?
SALISBURYThat's a good question. And this is an area that continues to be a challenge as to get students who are in the advance sciences to study abroad in higher numbers.
SALISBURYIt's oftentimes the challenge that the very strict organization has a curriculum in the sciences. And the sort of ordered nature of it makes it difficult to -- for students to leave for a term without some real planning to sort of find a way to still finish in four years because if a student is faced with a tradeoff of, I get to study abroad but then I need to come back for another year of college with the tuition cost to go with that, that student is very rarely going to decide to make that trade.
SALISBURYOne of the things that has happened in the advance sciences and in chemistry in particular is -- and there are some very interesting programs, and Brian could probably talk more about some specific examples -- is where they've sort of taken an interdisciplinary approach and to begin to think about the impact of chemistry and the relationships between the study of chemistry and questions about sustainability questions, environmental questions, questions that relate to medicine, questions relate to climate change and finding ways to sort of situate those questions in a context in a way that students can then connect their learning in the sciences with things that are happening in the real world.
SALISBURYAnd it turns out that those kinds of learning experiences are also overwhelmingly more powerful for the students, generally, because of its integrated nature. But these are challenges that some institutions are really starting to work through, finding ways to create a curriculum in which there's a -- there is a place for study abroad where there's a faculty champion within those programs.
NNAMDIIndeed. We got a tweet from Anne, who says, "My Georgia Tech student is studying abroad this spring, doing research in a STEM field." Karin Fischer, is that now increasingly common?
FISCHERYeah. I mean, I think one of the things that you see happening in recent years is sort of the notion of what is study abroad is changing. And so it's not just studying abroad. It's not just spending a semester a year at a foreign university, but it might be doing something that's entirely different. So I might be doing research abroad that then -- first, a semester or summer that then seems to tie into a student's academic program.
FISCHERIt might be doing service learning abroad, so doing -- going to Central America and doing an engineering project over a spring break or it might be interning abroad. Georgia Tech, Northeastern or a couple of the schools, the University of Rhode Island, that have really tried to get students from fields that weren't going abroad to go abroad by giving them internships overseas.
FISCHERSo maybe they do spend some time in a university, but they also might spend much of their time in a company or a firm doing hands-on work and interacting every day with people from different country and different culture and, perhaps, even in a different language.
NNAMDIMatter of fact, Brian, we got a tweet from Carrie, who said, "Has the panel found a measurable difference between study abroad and international internships or work in terms of cost or professional benefits?"
WHALENI don't think there have been any specific studies on that topic. But I would, you know, elaborate a little bit on what Karin is saying. I think it's an outstanding point that what we're seeing now is a development beyond study abroad to education abroad in a wider sense. And so many non-credit experiences are being developed and offered to students, such as the internships and field research and volunteer work and so on that Karin mentioned.
WHALENMy sense from the students who do internships abroad specifically is that, very often, that is an important experience regarding their career path and the ways that they might move in to the -- into future careers. And very often with those particular programs, the career office or career center on a campus is involved in helping to guide those internship opportunities abroad and knit them into the career advisement that students would receive on campus, both before they go abroad and when they return from abroad.
WHALENAnd it can help them -- bridge them into their life after the university when they're looking for a career. So I think that's an additional benefit. It may not be a credit-bearing internship at all. It could simply be an additional type of educational experience that a university might offer a student.
NNAMDIHere now is Frank in Fairfax, Va. Frank, your turn.
FRANKThanks very much for these extraordinarily insightful comments that your panelists have been presenting. I studied for my doctorate in Sweden, but have discovered in my field of environmental resource policy and regulation that it's even more important now for students to visit abroad because of the solutions to some of our problems that they'll see. For example, we all know of the gridlock in Congress, no decisions can be made, budgets passed.
FRANKIn virtually the advanced European countries, the leading party will oppose a bill or a law, but the law will be flushed out by nonpartisan professional ministries who will then pass it back to the party for criticism. And then finally, it will go for debate and amendment then so forth. So they already from the beginning come up with a carefully bulletproofed bill that avoids the short and long-term problems that may come up in our very serendipitous system. And if I may offer one more dramatic example...
FRANK...I -- we were in Europe, and I interviewed a Greenpeace -- German Greenpeace leader for energy. And he told me at the end of the interview that he had recently come back from visiting his counterpart, New York, you know, American Greenpeace.
FRANKAnd at the end of their discussions, he wanted to talk with oil company executives. The American Greenpeace representative looked at him with astonishment and said, we don't talk to those people. So you can see that there is an awful lot to learn from the European style, which gets a very biased treatment in media, in my opinion.
NNAMDIFrank, thank you very much for your call. And, Karin Fischer, you can learn a lot more if you, in fact, immerse yourself in that culture. But there is an issue that somebody refer to as islands programs or an American bubble surrounding some of these programs where students are spending time with American friends and not immersing themselves in the culture they're visiting. How serious is this issue, and how is it being addressed?
FISCHERYou know, I think it is something that colleges do worry quite a lot about. And it is a significant problem because as we've talked about earlier, a lot more of these programs now that are going are shorter-term programs. And while we've talked about some of the benefits of them, one of the real challenges, let me say, of them is this very thing, that if you're only going for a week or two, the amount of time that you're going to spend with someone in the host country from a different culture is much less than, frankly, you're going to spend with your classmates from your home campus.
FISCHERLikewise, we see an increase in students going to places like China, places where the language barriers are quite high whereas, you know, I may have taken French since I was in, you know, grade school, the number of people who've taken Chinese, who are in college right now, well enough to be able to function in a Chinese classroom, it's fairly limited. And so almost by default, some of these programs do have to be in English, which gives students less opportunity to interact with other students from the countries that they're going to study in.
FISCHERBut there are things that colleges and programs can do. One simple thing is -- I think we had somebody talk earlier about host families. If you -- maybe your program is in English but you're coming home to a family that's speaking to you in their native language, they're talking to you about their customs, and you're really living it. And so that is one kind of intervention that does seem to help.
NNAMDIHere now is Lara in Washington, D.C. Lara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LARAHi. I think this is a good segue from the last, you know, discussion. This conversation has been about the alternatives between staying home and participating in a college program, whether it's a study abroad or an internship abroad. And the other option that's cost-effective and far more likely to be immersive is to live abroad without participating in one of those programs.
LARAI did so 20 years ago. I went to Czech Republic before it, you know, had become such a popular place for Americans to go. I taught. I wrote freelance articles in English. I lived among folks. I had very little contact with Americans. And I paid nothing over my ticket to get there and very, very low rent at the time.
LARAThe young people I know who are pursuing these kinds of options right now, you know, if you're creative and use the Internet and find out these options either for recent graduates or people who are actively enrolled but taking time off, you can get the -- from school, you can get a great experience, not pay the fees that are often, for some universities, kind of a cash cow and, you know, really have it all. And I -- every student, to a person who I know who's pursued this option has really liked their experience and come home with a lot more language competency and confidence as adults.
NNAMDIOK, Lara. Thank you very much for your call, and thank you for sharing that experience with us. I indeed know a lot of people who have chosen to do that. But getting back to the education process in the minute or so we have left, Mark Salisbury, the off-campus advantages of studying overseas are apparent, as Lara has pointed out. But in most cases, the students still spend some of their time in a classroom. How does the classroom experience abroad compare to what they would receive here in the States?
SALISBURYThat's a great question. And that is one of the things that I know Brian's organization has really been trying to get institutions to think more about because for a period of time -- and in some cases still, the criticism was a fair criticism that, in fact, the classroom experience in a study abroad program was virtually the same as the classroom experience in -- at the host -- or the home university in the United States.
SALISBURYAnd that the question to be raised, well, why would you spend that much more money to simply attend the class in a different classroom if it's exactly the same? And there are a number of study abroad programs now that are really beginning to push beyond that and really try to connect what's going on in the classroom with the opportunities that are there in that local culture in connecting student assignments.
SALISBURYAnd instead of just giving them things to read from a textbook but having them go and gather information from primary sources right there in that community, maybe interviewing people, maybe going to a local market or bazaar and making some observations, but really trying to connect what's happening in the classroom with what's happening, what the opportunities are outside of the classroom.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Thanks to all of you who have called or sent emails on this topic. Sorry we couldn't get to all of you. Karin Fischer is a senior reporter covering global topics for the Chronicle on Higher Education. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIMark Salisbury is the director of institutional research and assessment at Augustana College. He is the co-author of the monograph, "Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose: Study Abroad in a New Global Century." Mark Salisbury, thank you for joining us.
SALISBURYThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Brian Whalen is the president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad. That's an organization that develops and disseminates a comprehensive standards of good practice for the field of education abroad. Brian Whalen, thank you for joining us.
WHALENThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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