Why Study Abroad

Translating a High School Exchange Year into College and Beyond

International communication is a central function in today’s workplace.

By studying abroad in high school, students are well ahead of the game.  They become armed with a truly competitive advantage for colleges and employment, as well as a key understanding to learning about and accepting a foreign culture.  Perhaps most importantly, these students are our global diplomats.

In the United States, one out of four businesses report working with clients or colleagues overseas.  In Brazil, that number jumps to one out of every two businesses.  In India, 82% of all businesses report regular communication with overseas colleagues.  As international collaboration becomes more and more usual in the workplace, how will a high school exchange year impact your ability to get in to college, and help establish a future career?

Measuring the Difference: a Global Impact

In a new report published by the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Ipsos Public Affairs, research attempts to assess how intercultural skills are considered, measured, and developed. Nearly a quarter of employers surveyed report that finding candidates with strong communication skills and second-language capabilities are major challenges.  When defined as “the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints”, nearly all employers surveyed conclude that intercultural skills are fairly or very important to the success of their organization.

The heavy emphasis on cross-cultural communication and foreign language capability has become a new standard in the realm of higher education; colleges worldwide are ramping up their recruitment of international students. In 2012, more than 4 million students enrolled in colleges outside their country of citizenship, an increase of over 3 million students since 1975. Meanwhile, that number is expected to surpass 7 million by 2025, reports NAFSA in their 2012 Trends and Insights report.

Living the Difference: a Global Viewpoint

The incredible significance of study abroad in high school was highlighted by First Lady Michelle Obama in her address at Howard University in Washington DC.  “Studying abroad isn’t just an important part of a well-rounded educational experience,” she said.  “It’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy…it’s about the experience you have with the world beyond our borders — with people, and languages, and cultures that are very different from our own.”

ffhIn embarking upon a high school year abroad, students demonstrate that they are accepting a challenge that will impact the rest of their life.  They are stepping up to the test of developing their maturity, motivation and independence.  These students demonstrate that they are willing to overcome obstacles and seeking to understand vastly different perspectives in becoming informed, globally-minded world citizens.

In the competitive realm of applying and getting accepted in to a university, today’s high school students around the world must find ways to stand out in application pools that are overflowing with qualified students.   By committing to a semester or year abroad, students gain incredibly diverse experiences that will shape their life interests and skills.  Their time abroad will create countless experiences that students can write about in college admissions essays, or discuss in interviews. “One of the best openings for a student to share an experience abroad is if the employer asks for an example of an accomplishment that gave the student a feeling of satisfaction,” says Lori Lyons, Assistant Director for career services at Susquehanna University.

erggCountries all over the world are increasing the availability of coursework taught in English to attract more international students. Meanwhile, new initiatives to promote cross-cultural engagement are constantly being unveiled, like the US 100,000 strong initiative, that seeks to increase the number of US students studying in China to 100,000 over four years.  In France, an international network of 98 overseas offices has been established to attract more international students.  The United Kingdom is rigorously seeking to position itself as a leader in international education, meanwhile, through the Prime Minister’s Five-Year Initiative.

Katy E. Leonard, postbaccalaureate advisor at Birmingham-Southern College, remarks, “Study abroad gives you an opportunity to observe different sets of cultural interactions, from etiquette to political systems.  All of this will prepare you for approaching these interactions later as part of a company.”