This week, the White House hosted travel bloggers at the Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. Their main goal: to help spread the word that, within the next month, the State Department plans to open a new U.S. Study Abroad Office to manage study abroad programs at schools across the country. Their reason? To encourage and put programs into place that help encourage students to travel and earn a more international education.
The numbers they shared were staggering: 90% of U.S. students do not study abroad, and 76% of those that do are caucasian. Students who do participate in education overseas consistently earn more in their starting salaries, secure jobs more quickly after graduation, and have their top choice of graduate and professional schools.
Of course, there are plenty of convincing statistics like this to prove the educational benefits of studying abroad. But perhaps the less tangible measures of personal growth are just as (if not more) powerful. Traveling abroad quite literally changes the way we see the world–our ability to feel like we can belong anywhere, our understanding of one another, no matter our cultural differences, our ability to see a bigger picture. And in the working world, it builds obviously valuable job skills like language proficiency, cultural training, tolerance for ambiguity, adaptability, and communication.
Overall, studying abroad makes for a richer life experience. It’s no wonder the White House wants to help push the future of our U.S. workforce to get an international education.
“Study abroad is often considered the pivotal event of young people’s lives,” said Evan Ryan, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. “It is the moment the world is opened up to them and their preconceived notions are turned upside down.”
Of course, at Airbnb, we see firsthand the amazing life-turned-upside-down experiences that travel and living like a local in a foreign land can have for people. In the best way possible. Having a local family or host as a personal resource to help with immersion in foreign culture (not to mention a way to save on costs from typical travel lodging!) is an ideal way to experience life in a foreign country while learning.
And while intense college courses and financial limitations can seem like reasons that international travel might be too difficult for many, there are plenty of ways to offset that anxiety and make it reasonable and real for all. Scholarships, fundraising efforts, and exchange programs are just the start of the research you can do if you want to get a once-in-a-lifetime chance at an education overseas.
And, of course, thanks to the government, there are even more resources.
Have you had a life-changing study abroad experience? Share your stories on Twitter by filling in this sentence:
- I #studyabroadbecause it’s a chance to really live like a local. I attended school and took part in local organizations that I could only have access to because I lived there and was in school.
- I #studyabroadbecause I now get to have family all over the world and feel at home wherever I go.
- I #studyabroadbecause rather than perceive things that I don’t understand as “wrong” I just see them as “different.”