USA Today recently released an article stating what those in the international education field have known all along: Study abroad significantly adds to students’ learning and overall college experience. Along with community service and internships, the USA Today article particularly praises programs that “immerse students in settings where they can’t help but rethink assumptions and mature as learners.”
This notion supports the findings of Joshua McKeown at SUNY Oswego, who recently conducting a research study exploring the greater impact of study abroad. McKeown found that the largest effect on intellectual development was found in students who had never previously been out of the country for more than two weeks, dubbing his results the “first time effect.”
The resulting changes that study abroad prompts in global perspective, maturity, and awareness are undeniable. One student from University of Dallas, a Roman Catholic school with a religious study abroad program in Rome, was cited in the USA Today article stating that, “You can look around campus and tell who’s been to Rome just by the maturity with which they carry themselves.”
However, it is also somewhat unfortunate that the USA Today piece separates the importance of internships, community service, and study abroad as if they are mutually exclusive. Many successful programs are combining all three components, providing global citizenship through interactive cultural field work along with pre-professional skills through foreign internship placements. Students should consider these aspects of a program when researching options, as the ability to integrate with locals in their foreign destination as well as exposure to the local economy and job market provide invaluable insights and growth.