Like Crovetti, a surge of thousands of American students have been exiting their comfort zones and expanding their horizons abroad. According to college advisors and company employers, studying abroad is a necessary step in gaining a global perspective in order to survive in today’s global market.
The Institute of International Education stated in its 2010 Open Doors Report, an annual census of international students in the United States, that “260,327 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit in 2008-2009. U.S. student participation in study abroad has more than doubled over the past decade.”
The study stated that “nontraditional destinations are increasing in popularity – 14 of the top 25 destinations are outside of Europe and 19 out of 25 are destinations where English is not a primary language.”
According to Mindy Schroeder, one of three student abroad coordinators in Marquette University’s Office of International Education (OIE) located on the fourth floor of the Alumni Memorial Union, the most recently published statistic of the number of study abroad students from the 2008- 2009 academic year (including summer 2009) was 458 students, or 22 percent of the Marquette University graduating class that year. This is the largest percentage of Marquette students to study abroad. In past years, the percentage steadily increased with 19 percent in the 2006-2007 academic year and 21 percent in the 2007-2008 academic year, Schroeder said.
Schroder said the increase is due to greater accessibility to study abroad programs. In the last year, Marquette has added an extensive pallet of Marquette-affiliated programs in which students can pay tuition through bursar in CheckMarq, she said.
This also means that students can now apply Marquette University financial aid to many study abroad programs. Schroeder said that over 80 percent of students use Marquette aid to study abroad.
Overall, the most popular country for Marquette students to study is Italy, she said, taking into account all short-term, semester and yearlong programs. Spain and Belgium are also at the top of the list.
Many universities like Goucher College in Baltimore even made studying abroad mandatory, The Record newspaper of Hackensack, N.J., reported in its May 7, 2010, issue in an article titled “Colleges offering more options to study abroad.”
Students at Goucher College choose to study for a semester, year or three-week Intensive Course Abroad, according to The Record. Each student receives a voucher of a minimum of $1,200 to alleviate travel expenses.
Soka University of America in southern California requires all of its students to participate in a block of study abroad and an international internship during their junior year, according to http://www.soka.edu. Students receive academic credit equivalent to four courses.
According to The Record, many universities are now offering study abroad options to freshmen students. “Florida State University’s First Year Abroad program sends students to London, Florence, Valencia or Panama city for 12 months,” the newspaper wrote.
The article gave more examples: “Freshmen entering The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University who are interested in the arts, humanities, international studies and social sciences can begin their studies in Italy. Freshman in [New York University’s] Liberal Studies program can complete their first-year degree requirements in London, Paris or Florence.”
Senior Gina Crovetti thinks studying abroad should be required at Marquette. “I think it’s just pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, out of what’s normal,” she said. “You have no idea what you can do unless you’re thrown into certain situations sometimes because there’re some people who will cling to dear life to things that are comfortable.”
She continued: “You need to get out of your usual routine. You have to because you realize things about yourself that you had no idea you could do.”
A Global Perspective
Discovering yourself and gaining confidence and independence aren’t the only benefits to studying abroad.
Maggie Krochalk, graduate assistant in the OIE, studied abroad in Poland for one semester as an undergraduate senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She said there are many practical skills – like speaking a foreign language – students acquire while studying abroad.
Similarly, Susan Whipple, an assistant director in the OIE, studied abroad in Paris during her sophomore undergraduate year at the State University of New York at New Paltz, located midway between Albany, N.Y., and New York City. This was her first exposure to the French language, and because of her experience abroad, Whipple speaks French fluently to this day.
“When I studied abroad I was challenged to grow and learn about myself,” she said. “I came back a wiser, more thoughtful person with a better understanding of myself, my country and my culture. I learned how to navigate cities and countries where I didn’t speak the language and to view situations from different perspectives.”
Whipple said she was amazed by the multicultural diversity and international foods she experienced in Paris. During her experience, she was able to travel to countries around Europe and experience those cultures as well.
“It was interesting to see the many different cultures that were there,” she said. “It was the first time I ate Vietnamese food [and] the first time I ate Arabic food. The people I was living with, they had been in Morocco. They had lived in South Africa. They had lived in Barbados. They had lived in New York.”
Job Market Advantage
Krochalk and Whipple both agreed that there are many benefits to studying abroad, especially as the marketplace becomes more global.
In the Nov. 8, 2010, issue of the New York Times, journalist David Brooks wrote that “the U.S. is well situated to be the crossroads nation. It is well situated to be the center of global networks and to nurture the right kinds of networks.” Among a list of ways for America to thicken global connections, Brooks included making “study abroad a rite of passage for college students.”
OIE graduate assistant Krochalk said students benefit most from studying abroad by gaining global perspectives.
“Employers here [in Milwaukee] and in the United States are looking for people with global perspectives,” Krochalk said. “More companies are looking for people who understand other cultures because they deal with other countries, and there’s more diversity in our culture here. And I think [studying abroad] kind of helps a person to think more broadly.”
Whipple explained how studying abroad can help students find jobs in the future: “Students who study abroad can distinguish themselves from other job applicants by demonstrating the language and cultural skills they have acquired as well as through the problem solving skills they have earned abroad. Students who have studied abroad need to explain what they gained and how it can help the organization. They can’t simply assume that the prospective employer understands or appreciates what was learned during the program.”
The Record newspaper from Hackensack, N.J., wrote: “Though the recession has forced many colleges to cut back on study-abroad budgets, the opportunity to live and study in a foreign country is seen by students and parents as not just a fun part of college but necessary preparation for working in a global economy.”
Fernando Figueredo, chairman of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Florida International University, said in the Feb. 3, 2010, issue of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun Sentinel: “It’s important for students to have this global education in their resume. Companies now highlight, and pretty much require, a global education and international experience.”
With all of this emphasis on the necessity of studying abroad during college, some students think they may have a financial disadvantage that translates into a less impressive resume for prospective employers.
Yes, studying abroad can be quite expensive, with tuitions as high as Marquette’s ($30,040 for the 2010-2011 school year) and additional expenses for purchasing a passport, housing and transportation.
Both Marquette study abroad programs and externally approved programs range in price from $800 to $30,000, according to the OIE’s study abroad website.
Surprisingly, many Marquette students are paying equal to Marquette’s tuition or even less by studying through cheaper programs, living with a host family from that country or purchasing housing through another university.
When senior Gina Crovetti studied in Rome through a program of Loyola University Chicago at the John Felice Rome Center, she said she paid less for her entire study abroad experience than she would have paid if she stayed in Milwaukee. She said she paid Marquette’s tuition for the program but Loyola Chicago’s cheaper room and board.
This may not be the case for other students. Prices vary widely from program to program. Regardless of cost, where there is a will, there is a way. Studying abroad may seem like a financial obstacle at first, but students find that it is still feasible, and crucial.
According to the Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette in its Feb., 6, 2010 issue: “We need to get to know the people around us. Our world has expanded from neighborhoods to nations, and our acquaintances now extend from counties to countries.”
Institute of International Education- 2010 Open Doors Report
Top ten countries where American students study, with each corresponding number of students during the 2008-2009 school year:
(1) United Kingdom- 31,342 students
(2) Italy- 27,362 students
(3) Spain- 24,169 students
(4) France- 16,910 students
(5) China- 13,674 students
(6) Australia- 11,140 students
(7) Germany- 8,330 students
(8) Mexico- 7,320 students
(9) Ireland- 6,858 students
(10) Costa Rica- 6,363 students
by Melanie Pawlyszyn