Studying Abroad: The Ultimate Field Trip

Harvard recently updated their curriculum for the first time in thirty years. Guess what one of the main changes they made was. Advance to the lightning round if you said studying abroad. In fact, somebody important with some fancy title at Harvard said, “If you are coming to Harvard, bring your passport.” Why do you think Harvard has placed such importance on travel and study abroad? So its students understand globalization better? So they are exposed to a greater diversity of culture, language, and ideas than they would be in Boston? Maybe it is because, believe it or not, some of the best research institutions are not in America? So students can experience other parts of the world rather than just read about them in a book? These are all correct answers.

Every historical event has unintended consequences. While I am not saying there is a direct connection, it is hard not to notice that since 9/11 more American college students are studying abroad than ever before. For the first few years everyone hunkered down in the States. But from 2004 on there has been a marked increase in student travel abroad. According to the State Department:

“In 2005-2006, some 223,534 U.S. college students received credit for studying in other countries, an 8.5 percent increase from the 2004- 2005 academic year. ... In 1995-1996, some 90,000 U.S. students studied abroad.”

That’s a great increase, but it is still just a fraction of college students. These numbers speak for themselves; some of you will go out of the country but most of you won’t. Roughly forty percent of you are “non-traditional” students, meaning you already have interests other than college, a career, a family, etc. So going abroad isn’t even a possibility. For the rest of you, though, I want to offer four very practical reasons why you should consider going abroad, in no particular order:

  • Get a better education at a comparable or cheaper price
  • Learn another language the smart and easy way
  • Classes in Rome, Italy and Rome, Georgia just aren’t the same
  • Global Social Networking

You can pay for it with whatever financial aid you have, including student loans. How far your dollar will stretch depends on where you are going . . .