In today’s global economy, more students are setting their sights on opportunities beyond the borders of America.
The number of Americans studying and working abroad is at an all-time high, numerous experts and a recently published annual report by the Institute of International Education indicate.
The Open Doors 2007 survey released in November 2007 reported the number of American students studying abroad is at a record level, up 8.5 percent to a total of 223,534 for the academic year 2005-2006, over the previous year.
The Open Doors survey, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, revealed that not only are more students studying abroad, they are also studying in non-traditional destinations such as Asia (up 26 percent), Latin America (up 14 percent), Africa (up 19 percent), and the Middle East (up 31 percent).
Sherry Schwarz, editor and publisher of Vermont-based Transitions Abroad, an online resource for living, working and studying abroad, said the federal government passed a bill that will help the U.S. become globally competitive.
“The Senate recognizes the need for students to have a foreign language and spend time in non-traditional destinations, such as Latin America, Asia and Africa,” said Schwarz, who is also director of Abroad View Foundation in Massachusetts.
Schwarz, who studied and traveled abroad, is referring to the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007, named after the late U.S. senator from Illinois. The legislation passed the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 2008.
This legislation creates a national program that will establish study abroad as the norm, not the exception, for undergraduate students, the International Association of Educator’s Web site shows. The hope is that one million students each year will spend part of their undergraduate studies abroad in non-traditional destinations.
Schwarz said the first step in working overseas is the ability to add to one’s resume the foreign cultural experiences and language skills obtained while studying abroad.
Gathering information to study abroad
The first place to consider obtaining information about studying abroad is at CSUN’s International and Exchange Student Center.
Juliet Aylmer, study abroad and national student exchange advisor, not only has first-hand experience in studying overseas, she also knows how to guide students through the process of researching, preparing for and applying to the Cal State University (CSU) International Programs.
In her position for the last 11 months, Aylmer came to CSUN by way of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, with husband Robert Taylor. Aylmer is originally from the UK.
“Students don’t know what they are missing,” said Aylmer, who first came to the U.S. as a study abroad student in 2004 while working on a master’s degree in ancient history. She worked part time in the same department she now runs at CSUN.
“They are missing a life-changing opportunity,” said Aylmer of students who haven’t studied abroad. “I came here as a mature student. I had no idea I would end up working here three years later. All the students who have gone abroad say it has exceeded their expectations.”
The number of CSUN students studying abroad fluctuates year-to-year. During the 2003-2004 school year, 67 CSUN students studied abroad. While the number dropped to 44 for the period 2006-2007, it rose to 51 this past school year.
Aylmer’s goal is to increase the number to help American students better prepare to work in a global economy.
The CSU International Programs offer eligible students the opportunity to study in one of 18 countries for one academic year.
“The most common question I get is, ‘Can I go for one semester?'” she said. While the answer is “no,” it is possible to participate in a summer program through some other organization.
There are several other valuable benefits of studying abroad through the CSU International Programs, however.
Aylmer said if students are eligible for financial aid at CSUN, they will still get it if they study abroad through this program.
Equally important, CSUN students pay CSUN tuition, even if the overseas university costs more.
“Studying abroad enhances employment opportunities,” said Aylmer. “It gives students a global perspective, which in an economically challenging world gives students better access.”
Gathering information for work abroad
While CSUN’s Career Center has some resources, the Web is teeming with information and opportunities for working abroad. Much of the material is written by seasoned individuals who have studied, lived, worked and traveled extensively in foreign countries.
Jean-Marc Hachey, author of “The BIG Guide to Living and Working Overseas” ($53.95), works at the Toronto-based workingoverseas.com.
Hachey was employed overseas for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World University Service, Canadian Crossroads International and the German Volunteer Service.
Hachey has been presenting seminars about opportunities abroad to students since 1990, and he is a columnist for transitionsabroad.com.
“With today’s global economy, there are more international jobs than ever before,” Hachey said. “Many are overseas, but the largest growth is for those based in the U.S. In today’s new world of work, employers are requiring employees to have global experience even if they never set foot outside their U.S. hometown.”
Hachey said the world has changed, so it is important to take international courses if students do not study abroad.
“Students should be putting together international work teams and doing presentations simultaneously with students in (such places as) Buenos Aires,” Hachey said.
“That’s the kind of project management they should be doing now, because international work teams are becoming a normal occurrence,” Hachey said,
Hache said this will prepare students and young professionals to answer the employer who asks, “Can you work with, or do you work in diverse groups, such as (a cross-cultural team with individuals from) Indiana, Indonesia and India?”
Hachey this is how teams are created today.
Recently re-launched with the latest features, workingoverseas.com offers much free information, including “Jean-Marc’s Quick Tips” in video format, as well as a generous sampling of information from Hachey’s book.
Gaining an international perspective at CSUN
It appears CSUN’s College of Business and Economics is in step with today’s global economy and job market.
Thanks to a $165,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, business majors have a new option in the international business program, with an emphasis on global logistics.
Part of the two-year grant is earmarked for the new option, which is a joint program between the Systems and Operations Management Department and the Marketing Department, said Ali Behnezhad, professor of systems and operations management.
Behnezhad is co-director of the grant with Professor Rafi Efrat, Accounting and Information Systems.
Another component of the grant is to give students a firsthand experience in business overseas, foreign cultures and foreign languages. This was accomplished when 18 students were selected to travel to China for 10 days during Spring Break 2008.
“China is a major economic force,” Behnezhad said. “The students toured a General Motors plant in China and a major port to get a feel for logistics operations for international trade.”
Behnezhad said students’ response to the chance of traveling to China was overwhelming.
“We received over 200 applications,” Behnezhad said. “Selecting was a tough task because the majority of students were well-qualified. Through screening and interviews, we selected the 18 who went on the trip. We got very positive feedback. Students wrote a report and completed a survey. Ei
ghteen of 18 rated the trip excellent and very beneficial.”
Because of this, the Spring Break 2009 trip, which was planned for Mexico, has been changed for a repeat journey to China.
The College of Humanities will develop two new courses in cross-cultural business in Latin America and Asia because it has seed-money from the grant to come up with a course proposal, Behnezhad said,
CORRECTION: “In the print edition, it was incorrect that 18 students will spend their next spring break in China. This occurred last spring break. Also, the focus of the story is about opportunities for working and studying abroad. This was incorrectly changed during the editing process.”