As more employers are seeking diverse candidates with global experience, community colleges across the country are now providing students with the opportunity to study abroad. Abroad programs allow students to take courses overseas, so students can explore the world while still maintaining a focus on their degree program.
Benefits of Studying Abroad
While each community college offers different programs, the Institute of International Education (IIE) is an organization that currently works with community colleges to promote diverse program offerings for students. As the IIE describes, “the role of study abroad revolves predominately around a) providing opportunities for learning, cultural development, and career education; b) fostering understanding and building global partnerships, and c) preparing students to take their place in an increasingly global community and world citizenship.”
Also, according to Transitions Abroad, students not only benefit academically and professionally but also personally as well. According to survey results, “97 percent said studying abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity, 96 percent reported increased self-confidence, 89 percent said that it enabled them to tolerate ambiguity, and 95 percent stated that it has had a lasting impact on their worldview.”
Paired with this, students reported that studying abroad led to long-lasting friendships with both United States and global students, as “more than half the respondents are still in contact with U.S. friends met while studying abroad, and 73 percent said the experience continues to influence the decisions they make in their family life.”
How Long are the Programs?
While the length of each study abroad program may vary, research from Transitions Abroad report that students are generally studying abroad for less time than in the past: “In the 1950s and 1960s, 72 percent of respondents studied for a full year, but only 20 percent of respondents did so in the 1990s. The number of students studying for less than 10 weeks tripled from the 1950s and 1960s to the 1990s.”
Yet while the duration of stay may be declining, survey results report that programs that are at least 6 weeks in length can be “enormously successful in producing important academic, inter- and intra-personal, career, and intercultural development outcomes.” While some programs may range anywhere from two weeks to multiple semesters, the survey findings are significant as students are shifting towards the trend of attending shorter programs.
Which Careers are Best for Studying Abroad?
While the academic, personal, and professional benefits are great for any career avenue, the most advocated career for global opportunities are jobs in language and communication. According to Transitions Abroad, 42 percent of respondents report that they now use a secondary language, other than English, on a regular basis after studying abroad while living with a family. The option to live with a family is called “homestay,” while as students who do not choose the homestay option normally live in an apartment or dorm. Students who lived outside of the homestay option reported slightly lower rates of using a secondary foreign language on a regular basis.
Also, paired with studying abroad, students can also often take advantage of internship opportunities abroad. According to data from Transitions Abroad, many students find that their career choices are directly reflected by their internship experience abroad. In fact, nearly 70% of students who interned abroad stated that this experience helped them pursue a specific career direction, in contrast to only 60% of those who did not internet. Additionally, 83% of respondents believed that their overseas internship helped them gain skills that had benefits for their long-term career path, in comparison to only 75% who did not intern.
Requirements to Study Abroad
While each college has unique requirements, the IIE asserts that most community colleges have an “open door’ policy, where, “community college study abroad programs include all ages, aptitudes, and backgrounds. While some pre-requisites may exist, GPA, campus standing, and disabilities do not normally figure into admission. In that community colleges are bound by their commitment to offering high-quality, low-cost academic programs, they make study abroad accessible to all students and challenge the convention that studies abroad is for elite students only.”
How Can I Enroll in a Program?
Students can find out about study abroad opportunities by visiting their community college’s website or meeting with an academic advisor. Many states also have educational boards that can assist students with more information and services. For example, California Colleges for International Education (CCIE) “works to provide community college students the opportunity to study abroad, improve foreign language acquisition and fluency, and provide colleges an opportunity to internationalize the curricula, bring international students to our campuses.”
With the aid of CCIE, over 3,500 community college students in California studied abroad during the 2005-2006 academic year. Their program venues include semesters in Europe, Africa, Australia, and many others. While the cost of studying abroad is often an inhibiting factor for some students, as many programs are expensive, most community colleges offer payment plans, scholarships, and financial assistance to help with the monetary implications.
According to the studies from CCIE, over 70 percent of students indicated that the costs of studying abroad would not deter them from the benefits and opportunities of the global experience.
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