Friday, December 10, 2010

Study Abroad and Other Exchange Programs

Recently my son and I were discussing opportunities being offered by his college for summer internship and study abroad programs. Of course, given that I have gushed so often over the years about the value I placed on my own student travel abroad experience, I had nothing to offer but encouragement, with the necessary caution of course.

The last few decades of the 20th century and thereafter have seen the world growing smaller and smaller, with international travel and internet communication bringing people from all countries, of varied cultures, colours and classes together. This international congregation has been just phenomenal, sensitizing people to the similarities and differences of neighbors.

How then can we not support programs that continue this global love affair? At the rate that economies are shrinking and growing, it has become imperative that students experience foreign travel, learn to speak a foreign language and understand how to communicate in a cross-cultural way.

If you take a glance around colleges and universities you will note the growth and development of diversity programs, international scholar/student services and other such initiatives which pay homage to the globalization trends. These have given rise to new job titles ranging from visa specialist to global studies advisor. And despite the hassle of international travel, there is every indication that the trends will continue.

There are all kinds of work/study abroad programs. Some like Princeton in Spain focus on enhancing foreign language skills, others like the American Field Service teach about the benefits of  intercultural study and still others offer internship and volunteer opportunities.

Students, you should give serious thought to grabbing the opportunity to live abroad. It will provide you with a deeper understanding of your international friends and surprisingly you may learn a lot more about your own culture and yourself. Finally, your resume will thank you for it.

1 comment:

Nicole - When did I become my Mom? said...

I totally agree. Having studied abroad myself - albeit in a country speaking the same language - the exposure to a different way of doing things, different patterns of speech, a different culture, different weather... It really makes you take a hard look at things you've taken for granted. And that questioning of assumptions is so important in building solid communication skills.