Study in the USA

Internationalizing University Education

Huffington Post

Recently a faculty member from a mid-west university called me, saying, "I teach a semester of Modern Latin American History, yet none of my students interacts with anyone from Latin America during the entire course. Can you help us?"

Increasingly, university faculty are realizing that learning "about" the world must be supplemented with an effort to learn "with" it. Interacting with authentic audiences in the global regions or international curricula being studied can bring that curriculum alive and put it into a contemporary and local real context. At the same time, educators worldwide are realizing that direct international experiences can dramatically and positively impact the university experience. For example, a new study presented by the British Council, NAFSA, the Ipsos Public Affairs, has found that international education experience at the university level enhances the chances of employment. Earlier it has been demonstrated that students on the pre-college level have enhanced university and career opportunities if they have acquired "21st century skills" and perspectives that include global competence, familiarity with technology, ability to work collaboratively in teams, critical thinking skills and improved reading and writing skills.

According to the new study employers significantly pointed out that they value international educational experience in potential candidates, especially during the current economically challenging time.

Yet, the number and percentage of US young people who have international experiences at either the high school or university levels are miniscule. According to statistics of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET), the number of US high school students who went abroad in 2011 for a semester or year, totaled a miniscule 1,376 students -- out of a high school population of over 16 million (2008 data) students, which represents 1 ten-thousandths of 1 percent. Estimates of the percentage of university students who have a meaningful educational experience internationally (as opposed to a week on Greek or French beaches), are but 2% of all university students.

How can the vast majority of our country's youth have the opportunity to interact with their global peers and acquire the skills necessary for success in the decades ahead when so few of them have the chance to experience another cultural physically? How can we expect them to be global competent when their teachers and faculty members are not?

If we are to foster significant numbers of new generations of globally competent students who aspire to gain or actually obtain international experiences and expertise, it will only be possible through technology-enabled educational experiences. Recently several organizations have come together to form the "exchange 2.0 Coalition," to advocate on behalf of such "virtual exchanges" as a critical and meaningful way through which the vast majority of students in this country will be able to gain global competency and other 21st century skills.

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