This article by Nicole Holler was originally published on blogs.state.gov on April 12, 2016.
A few weeks ago, the City University of New York’s Baruch School hosted U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan for a panel on why study abroad is an important investment in our future. Bill Tsuda, a Critical Language Scholarship Program alumnus who studied in Japan, and LaToya Bethune, a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar alumna who studied in Tanzania, also shared their experiences and advice with the audience.
In case you missed it, here are five takeaways from the panel:
- Study abroad helps you tackle global challenges. Both Ambassador Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Ryan spoke about how people-to-people exchange programs not only enable knowledge sharing, but also encourage students’ ability to successfully communicate across cultures. Such skills help students collaboratively address issues like public health and access to education for women and girls.
- Study abroad is an investment in your future. Assistant Secretary Ryan shared how her study abroad experience in the United Kingdom prepared her for a career in international affairs, while Ambassador Kennedy explained how study abroad helped her become more independent, take risks, and develop friendships she still has today. Student panelist LaToya Bethune’s experience helped her discover a passion for human rights law and inspired her to apply to law school, while Bill Tsuda developed language skills he hopes to maintain for a lifetime. As Ambassador Kennedy noted, “Study abroad is something that you can do for yourself and your country.”
- You get out of study abroad what you put in. When asked by Assistant Secretary Ryan what advice they have for prospective study abroad participants, both Bill and LaToya agreed that research is key. Through their research and conversations with campus advisors, Bill and LaToya found ways to get funding and credit for their coursework while participating in study abroad. Once overseas, LaToya stressed that engaging with local communities is important to getting a better understanding of a country’s culture and having a truly unique experience. Ambassador Kennedy noted that when studying abroad, what happens outside the classroom is as important as what students experience inside the classroom.
- Study abroad makes us all ambassadors. Assistant Secretary Ryan remarked that diplomacy is no longer just government to government — it is now artist-to-artist, scientist-to-scientist, and even student-to-student. By going abroad, American students give citizens of other countries greater insight into the diversity of the United States. On the flip side, Ambassador Kennedy noted that when Japanese exchange students receive a warm welcome in the United States, their positive impressions of the United States increase dramatically.
- The State Department wants to make study abroad accessible to all. Assistant Secretary Ryan established the U.S. Study Abroad Office in May 2015 to promote greater diversity and participation in study abroad. The U.S. Study Abroad Office’s website, studyabroad.state.gov, provides information about U.S. and foreign government programs and scholarships to make study abroad more affordable and accessible.
About the Author: Nicole Holler serves as the Communications Manager for the U.S. Study Abroad Branch in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
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