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Voices of the Global Community

Jodi Malmgren, Study Abroad Interest Group Chair
Jim Galvin, Study Abroad Interest Group Member

Editor's Note: An Academic Planning for Study Abroad Form developed by Jim and Jodi was featured as a 'Sparkler* in the June 2006 edition.

Nationally, study abroad interest is high, but participation falls far short of the interest expressed by students entering college. Perceived barriers and myths may deter students from studying abroad, widening the gap between interest and participation. Effective advising can foster interest and participation by addressing barriers, dispelling myths, and emphasizing the value of study abroad.

National Trends in Study Abroad

Of college-bound high school students surveyed, 48% want to study abroad and 28% plan an internship abroad. Public support is also high. Seventy-five percent of the public (with equally high levels of support among men and women and across all education levels) believes students should study abroad while in college. Actual participation rates are much lower, with only approximately 3% of students nationally completing a study abroad program (Hayward & Siaya, 2001).

The gap between interest and participation poses significant challenges and opportunities. Fortunately, there are encouraging signs. The trend over the past few years is toward greater participation in study abroad and broader diversity of destination. Since 2000-01, U.S. student participation in study abroad has grown almost 20%. Significant increases have occurred in several non-English speaking countries outside of Western Europe, notably a 90% increase in study abroad to China (U.S. study abroad, 2005). In addition, the U.S. Congress has designated 2006 as the Year of Study Abroad and the Lincoln Commission is proposing national legislation for new scholarship money to support study abroad, aiming for a participation rate of one million students by 2017, a more than five fold increase over the 191,321 students who participated in 2003-04 (U.S. study abroad, 2005). Reaching this level of participation will require significant institutional investment in promoting study abroad and advising students on the barriers and benefits to study abroad.

Myths and Barriers: The 'Five Fs'

Survey data at the University of Minnesota (2005) continues to confirm that students face five barriers, five Fs, when deciding whether to study abroad:

  • Finances
  • Academic Fit
  • Faculty and Adviser Support
  • Fear
  • Friends & Family

Advisers can assist students by addressing the five F's and devising solutions.

  • Financing study abroad may involve collaboration between the academic adviser, the study abroad center, and financial aid office. Students who plan ahead are more successful in financing an international experience.
  • Incorporating a study abroad that fits into any major, minor or pre-professional goals is becoming easier. Fields such as business, engineering, and health care are now well represented in the options available to students.
  • Advisers can prepare detailed pre-departure plans that include course evaluations, graduation maps, and career planning. At the University of Minnesota, students are required to meet with their collegiate, departmental, and study abroad advisers prior to departure. All classes are evaluated and the equivalencies are listed on the Academic Planning for Study Abroad (APSA) form. Knowing how the credits will apply to the academic plan helps to address student and parental concerns. (View the APSA form here.)
  • Advisers can assist students by acknowledging the real fears associated with leaving the familiar to immerse oneself in another culture. It may be helpful to remind students of their previous successes with transition, such as acclimating to the university as a first year student.
  • Students struggle with leaving behind family and friends. Forming a new social safety net abroad is challenging, but for many students, the friends (and, sometimes, host families) met abroad become lifetime relationships. Staying in touch while abroad has also never been easier.

In addition, there are common 'myths' about study abroad that may overlay these 5 Fs.

MYTH:Study abroad costs too much.
FACTS: Study abroad costs vary widely. For institutions that charge their home school tuition, scholarship money may defray additional expenses such as airfare. For institutions that have students pay the study abroad program fees directly, students have the ability to seek out lower-cost programs. Opportunity costs such as lost wages can be met with scholarship money or the value of increased marketability in career searches.

MYTH:Study abroad delays graduation.
FACTS:With careful planning to apply study abroad coursework toward degree requirements, students can graduate on time. The APSA form and process for study abroad degree planning can be adapted to your campus.

MYTH:Professional schools do not see value in study abroad.
FACTS:A recent study of Medical School admissions deans suggests that 65 percent of respondents indicated that international study is beneficial for pre-med students (Anderson, Nemecek & Navari, 2001).

The Value of Study Abroad

As an adviser, you can also share with students the unique value of study abroad.

  • Discipline specific and 'field' learning opportunities that offer an international perspective on a student's area of study
  • Personal development (self confidence, tolerance for ambiguity)
  • Cross cultural and language skills and greater appreciation of diversity
  • Greater student satisfaction with their education and improved graduation and retention rates
  • Broadened career perspective

What Next Steps Can an Academic Adviser Take?

  • Advocate for study abroad when meeting with your advisees. Your encouragement really does make a difference.
  • Degree planning is crucial. Early planning and effective advising makes study abroad applicable to degree requirements and resolves course sequencing issues.
  • Voice your support for study abroad among your colleagues. Your voice can help sway opinion or even change a campus culture to be more supportive of study abroad.
  • Investigate your campus' study abroad office and meet the adviser(s). Get to know your institution's study abroad programs and policies.
  • Share your international story if you went abroad. If you didn't, share a student or colleague 'success story.'
  • Encourage students to investigate financial aid and scholarships for study abroad. Money is available, especially for students who plan ahead, go to less traditional locations, or study abroad for longer periods of time.
  • Re-entry advising is essential for returning students. Advisers can help students re-assimilate, review their degree progress, articulate their new skills, and reflect on career and other future plans.

Academic and study abroad advisers can make a student's dream of study abroad become a reality. While the five Fs pose challenges, close collaboration and effective advising can significantly improve study abroad participation.

Jodi Malmgren
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
jodim@umn.edu

Jim Galvin
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
JGalvin@class.cla.umn.edu

References

Anderson, A., Nemecek, J. E. and Navari, R.M. (2001). International study in premedical education: Report of a survey of medical school admission deans. Academic Medicine.

(2005, Nov 14). U.S. study abroad increases by 9/6%, continues record growth. Press release for Open doors 2005: U.S. students studying abroad. Institute of International Education. Retrieved from the World Wide Web at http://opendoors.iienetwork.org/?p=69735

Hayward, F.M. and Siaya, L.M. (2001). Public experience, attitudes, and knowledge: A report on two national surveys about international education. American Council on Education. Retrieved from the World Wide Web at http://www.acenet.edu/bookstore/pdf/2001-intl-report.pdf

(2005). University of Minnesota curriculum integration data. Retrieved from the World Wide Web at: http://www.umabroad.umn.edu/ci/stats/surveys/index.html

Cite this article using APA style as: Malmgren, J. & Galvin, J. (2006, September). Effective advising for study abroad. Academic Advising Today, 29(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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