Written by Jarrett Jobe, PhD, Executive Director, Leadership Central —
One of the positive impacts of globalization over the past 25 years has been the tremendous growth of international study abroad programs and experiences in higher education. During this time, colleges and universities have expanded their international study opportunities to students, which include multi-disciplinary academic programs at new global destinations not previously offered to students. These programs have also expanded their learning outcomes from focusing solely on global/cultural competencies to service learning, leadership, and business/entrepreneurship. Students return from these experiences with new perspectives and an understanding of a diverse world, a deeper appreciation of varied cultural practices and beliefs, and expanded knowledge of their place in their own communities. NAFSA finds that study abroad and its impacts on students are significant in the following learning outcomes: improved grades, retention, graduation rates, language learning, intercultural understanding, enlightened nationalism, and employability. NAFSA recommends more research on the topic, but emerging evidence is clear on the benefits of these experiences for students’ growth and development. Yet these results have focused primarily on long term (6 months or more) international experiences and there is a growing number of higher education experiences that fit into the short-term (less than a month) description. The small amount of research that has been conducted has been positive, reporting results consistent with longer programs, but also continues to call for additional research. . . .