Study abroad has global benefit.
EVER SINCE A UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE PROFESSOR TOOK EIGHT students to France in 1923, study abroad has been touted as a way to expand a student's understanding of the world.
Most research on the benefits of study abroad has focused on the individual benefit to participants, such as language acquisition. "There is a lot of anecdotal evidence about [study abroad] experiences," says Gerald Fry, professor of International and Intercultural Education at the University of Minnesota. He and fellow professor Michael Paige recently completed research examining the long-term effects of study abroad and the benefits to "society at large."
The researchers surveyed 6,391 people from 22 higher education institutions who had studied abroad during the last 50 years. They found a high level of global engagement, which they define as civic engagement, philanthropy, knowledge production, social entrepreneurship, and voluntary simplicity.
Fry says there are generational differences, with more recent graduates showing a high level of volunteerism, while graduates from the 1960s and '70s are in a financial position to be philanthropic. "It was gratifying that study abroad attendees attributed these behaviors to study abroad. It was their perceptions," Fry says, adding that respondents' behavior reflects their attitudes.
Although foreign institutions would prefer American students to come for yearlong or semester-long programs, the researchers say it is the "intensity and quality" of a program that matters, not the duration.
The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act, which has the goal of increasing to 1 million the number of students studying abroad in 10 years, was originally introduced in 2007, when it passed the Home. Although it failed to reach a vote in the Senate when the last session of Congress ended, it was reintroduced in February. "We certainly think these data will inform how much funding should be given to this project," Fry says. "Our data is pretty timely; we have hard empirical data, not just anecdotal."
Study Abroad Decade Impact on Philanthropic Donations Never Rarely Sometimes Frequently 1960s 2% 10% 33% 54% 1970s 4% 16% 25% 55% 1980s 8% 16% 32% 45% 1990s 15% 26% 29% 29% 2000s 39% 29% 20% 11% Source: University of Minnesota, Sage Note: Table made from bar graph.