Monday, April 4, 2011

The Study Abroad Credential

Last week during a meeting I was attending a colleague brought up the concept of a "study abroad credential" which of course peaked my interest!  My colleague was wondering out loud how long a study abroad program must be for it to be meaningful in the job market.  My colleague continued to wonder if a short-term program [length not defined] sets one apart from those who did not study abroad.  Great questions in my mind!

There have been debates on short-term programs vs. semester/year long programs in the field as long as I can remember.  There has even been some discussion/comment on the value of short-term programs [the value of a 2 week program] over on IHEC Blog's Facebook page in regards to a "Study abroad related tweet of the day" that I posted.

Thinking beyond the individual outcomes and value of a short-term study abroad employers value short-term study abroad programs?  At what length of time studying/working abroad [in weeks or months] does a study abroad program become meaningful for employers?

What are your thoughts on this?  

Photo credit: bgottsab


  1. I really like this idea, because those of us who are considering going abroad and instructing could then receive the appropriate training and instruction to earn that credential and as a consequence have a better understanding of what to expect and improve their chances in succeeding. I think this is a great idea!

  2. I don't think employers immediately value the experience of study abroad; I think they value the skills one can develop over the course of being abroad, such as adaptability, resourcefulness, critical inquiry, self-confidence, etc. That is, it's not the experience itself, but what the experience does to you, and what you take away from the experience that has the greatest impact. We need to articulate those outcomes more clearly.

  3. To follow up, I read this excerpt from a program description:

    "Professors in France expect students to assume greater responsibility for their learning, to determine their own study and reading schedules, and to work independently. This implies motivation, self-discipline, organizational skills, and a willingness to adapt to a less structured environment and different educational philosophy. The experience contributes to the development of critical thinking and research skills."

    What employer wouldn't want someone who has developed these skills and habits!

  4. Great comments. Suggest readers see my edited volume for AIFS titled: "Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development" Google me + name to see PDF. Also "The Right Tool for the Job" in the NAFSa International Educator. Long or short periods is really not the point- it's how students learn to "unpack" their intl ecperiences and this requires intentional focus and work when they return home. See MSU's seminar on "Unpacking the Study Abroad Experience" on their website. Also check out October article in Chronicle of HEd about study abroad being highlighting work of colleague, Cheryl matherly, at Univ of Oklahoma.

    Marty Tillman, President
    Global Career Compass

  5. David a fascinating topic.

    In terms of articulating outcomes is it possible that the use of more qualitative approaches to measurement (an education abroad version of the CLA). These are always valid at the individual level, and students dont have to try to explain to an employers what moving from stage 4 to 5 on the IDI scales means.

    Jeff Burrow

  6. Studying abroad can add to a candidates ability to view other cultures in a manner that will benefit their current organization. The use of long term study programs sets the candidate apart from short term programs that may seem like a mini vacation. By truly embracing the study abroad program the student gains a respect and understanding for other cultures.

    Mark V.

  7. It’s those study abroad in Asia experiences that shape who we are and guide us along the path of life. By doing things out of our comfort zone or things we may not have initially chosen to do, we gain invaluable experience!

  8. If somebody wants to study abroad, definitely a long term program is more beneficial than a short term program. A long term program including one year programs offers the student exposure to a new cultures for a long period of time. Students live and mingle with people from different places, spend more time with them and learn a lot. For those wondering why study abroad, one of the main reasons is that it will broaden your outlook towards life.

  9. I believe that short term experiences can be as impactful as longer term programs- and this has been shown through research, but the operational words here are "can be." Ultimately employers respond to the individual and their capabilities and maturity. If a person goes long-term to a location where s/he can remain unchallenged a short-term program that is out of the comfort zone and requires significant reflection may in fact contribute more to the development of the individual. Simply putting study abroad on a resume without evidence in the individual that they developed from the experience will likely not make the applicant more desireable. There is more opportunity for development long-term, but only if the person is developmentally ready to make it count.

  10. Great discussion. As Marty and Martha illustrate, the research shows and many international educators agree that program length isn't the best measurement of student learning...
    I would add that one important challenge facing institutions, in trying to send more students abroad during trying financial times, is that of creating the right balance of long and short-term opportunities. While short-term opportunities can be just as impactful as long-term, the variables for student success (preparation, cultural training, program assessment, advising, etc.) are important to identify and properly manage in order to best facilitate programs and prepare students for that "unpacking" component of their global learning.