Around The World Cross-Cultural Studies On Campus
College is more than what you learn in the classroom. When you can get your message out around the world instantly by phone text Skype or Twitter; when business “meetings” are conducted online through software like GoToMeeting; and when virtual offices are now commonplace it’s clear how global our society has become.
So given the current state of the economy and the high competition for jobs how can you get an edge? Think global! Perhaps the best way to have that something extra is to gain experience first-hand by studying abroad and/or by taking courses (or perhaps majoring) in international programs being offered by many schools.
Studying abroad for college students has come a long way. Professors and students know that studying in another country is essential to any education in today’s global society. Marie-Anne Martin, Head of Business Development for Regent’s College London says, “Study abroad will greatly enhance your cultural awareness and sensitivity can improve communication skills and will result in additional self-confidence resilience and determination. You’ll gain exposure to different teaching practices and will have the opportunity to expand your personal network of peer academic and industry contacts as well as research employment and postgraduate study opportunities in a different country.”
Dean Hartman, Senior Director of Communications and Marketing at LaGrange College in Georgia agrees. “We’ve seen students return to campus with new perspectives on where they fit into a global economy. They come back with a refreshed sense of cooperation and new confidence.”
WHERE TO GO
There are several options when it comes to studying abroad depending on your particular school. While the larger schools may offer more choices even the smaller ones offer some exciting options.
LaGrange College for example only has about 1,100 students but the school offers some great programs for group travel abroad during the January term. In 2012 the theatre arts department along with the School of Art & Design journeyed to Greece for courses that examined “The Roots of World Drama” and “Ancient Architecture.” Nursing students went to London as part of the college’s popular “Nursing Since Nightingale” class. And a third group flew to Ecuador for 11 days to study the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
Larger schools offer more selection. Florida State University (FSU) offers over 50 programs in more than 20 locations operating year-round study centers in London England; Florence Italy; Valencia Spain and Panama City Panama. Those locations all host broad curriculum programs. Summer programs are faculty-led and tend to be more major-specific. While summer program locations include far-flung places like China the Czech Republic and Turkey the United Kingdom and other Western European countries like France and Italy tend to be the most popular.
Whatever country you choose for study abroad be sure to follow the travel guidelines for the program. (The U.S. Department of State posts a regularly updated list of countries to avoid.) The more comfortable you feel in a country the better your experience.
WHEN TO GO
Most American students study abroad for a semester or a six-week summer program. Although the majority of students go abroad during their junior or senior year (or during the summer between those years) FSU offers a unique “First Year Abroad” program where freshmen begin their college experience by studying abroad their first year.
If you’re more comfortable getting a year or two of college in the States under your belt you can attend the more traditional summer or semester abroad.
HOW TO PAY
Payment is usually the obstacle students have to overcome in order to go global but there are actually several options. Most schools accept the same financial aid abroad that they accept at their primary college.
LaGrange College also offers scholarships. “Our new ‘Study Away’ program allows $2,500 to juniors or seniors for a study abroad experience. We also give numerous scholarships and partial scholarships with upperclassmen getting first priority,” Hartman explains.
Just remember to take living costs into consideration as well as they’re not likely to be covered by financial aid.
CLOSER TO HOME
You don’t necessarily need to pack a suitcase to submerge yourself in a foreign culture. Many schools now offer specialized international programs right on campus!
Clemson’s Center for China Studies for example facilitates exchanges and collaborations with China for expert speakers training programs research and outreach activities. At Rutgers students who enroll in the Middle Eastern Studies Program (MESP) are offered 152 courses including 32 language courses. But the program is more than just classroom lectures. In conjunction with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies the MESP hosts a range of social cultural and educational events related to the Middle East.
Choosing a major offered through a global studies program can be broad (e.g. a degree in international business) or specific (e.g. a concentration on Southeast Asia). At the College of Charleston where international studies was the school’s fastest-growing major from 2010 to 2011 after only its first year students choose from a concentration that focuses on Africa Asia Europe Latin America and the Caribbean or international comparative literature. Learning about other countries customs and people can change your perspective on life.
Whether you choose to study abroad or learn through a global program right on campus understanding cultures beyond our borders will give you a competitive advantage when it’s time to head out into the REAL world … the job market!
Wendy Burt-Thomas is the editor of My College Guide.