Studying abroad: A valuable opportunity that should not be abused
College students today are graduating into a very different and far more competitive job market than previous generations, and many students are looking to do all they can while still in college to help their resumes. In this globalized economy, having studied abroad may be the experience that sets graduates apart in their job search, giving them the leg up they need to get hired.
UH offers an array of study abroad programs that can further the studies of students of every major. While scholarships and financial aid have already existed, the University will soon be making studying abroad even easier.
According to an official UH news release, the University will launch the Passport for Coogs initiative in Fall 2014 “to offer a passport at no charge to all UH students interested in pursuing a learning abroad program.” This is part of UH’s “commitment to double learning abroad participation over the next five years.”
Industrial engineering freshman Angel Henderson said she is considering studying abroad in Ghana and supports the many resources for students, such as Passport for Coogs.
“I think that’s awesome that UH started a passport payment (initiative). I think that’s really great,” Henderson said. “It really helps the students. It attracts students to want to venture out more.”
Henderson said she thinks the benefits of studying abroad are especially important for disadvantaged students who may not otherwise have that opportunity.
“I do believe (studying abroad) is necessary with globalization; (as are) learning cultures and just having a culture exchange,” Henderson said. “A lot of people — especially minorities that come from low income — are just confined in certain areas, so just to venture out and see the other aspects of the world and how other cultures interact is very beneficial to not just your academic success, but personal (success) as well.”
A US News article mentioned other universities around the country that are also taking steps to help these disadvantaged students participate in this life-changing opportunity, citing the 2013 Open Doors Report showing that minorities are an incredibly under-represented group in study abroad programs, with non-white students making up just 7.7 percent of the total number of study abroad students in 2011-2012.
Additionally, any program that helps with the monetary costs for minorities and low-income students is one step closer to bridging that gap. Psychology junior Brandon Smith said he also believes in the value of seeing the world by studying abroad.
“I do believe that (studying abroad is) something that you should definitely entertain. I believe there are too many people that just know their own city, and don’t like to travel even,” Smith said. “I know a lot of people that hardly get out of Texas, so to study abroad would definitely help out the learning process of almost everyone to kind of get a different experience from all these different cultures that we live around.”
However, scholarship programs and other incentives for students do not solve all the problems that make it difficult for students who want to study abroad to get that opportunity. Smith is one of those students, who though interested in studying abroad, considers it too much of an expense, both of money and time.
“That is something that did interest me and kind of used to, but at the moment, probably not,” Smith said. “I’m a full-time student and a full-time employee, so it’s a little difficult to be able to do something like that. To find the time to actually take a vacation (would be difficult) … unless (the University had) something along the lines where they can pay for the missed income.”
Unfortunately, some of the students who do get the opportunity to study abroad may not take it seriously, resulting in the entire country being embarrassed by their behavior as representatives of the U.S.
Recently a story has been making the rounds on social media of a U.S. student studying in Germany having to be rescued by firefighters after getting trapped in a sculpture of a giant vagina. Though mostly shared as a joke accompanied by witty but immature remarks, an article by the Guardian that reported about the incident may only further the old stereotype of the insensitive and boorish American tourist.
While music senior Cymphoni Pringle said she does not think it is that much of an issue, she does think it can be avoided by better screening of students to ensure their sincerity about studying abroad.
“First of all, people are goofy everywhere. I mean, some foreign person might come to America and do something silly and embarrass (his) own countries … We’re all the same. But I think one way we could probably reduce that is by seeing how serious the person is in going to study abroad, because if they’re just looking at it as more of a vacation, they’re more likely to do something silly,” Pringle said. “But if they’re going to really learn another culture, to kind of expand their horizons, (they are less likely to do something silly). The students who are looking at it from more of an educational standpoint rather than a relaxation standpoint are less likely to do something silly, like getting stuck in a giant (vagina).”
Henderson said she thinks training and accountability will encourage students to be more respectful abroad.
“There are some negative consequences with some Americans that are not sensitive to other people’s culture. I think there should be some kind of diversity training before people go to these countries, so they will know… their social norms,” Henderson said. “What you could do in America, you probably can’t do there because it’s going to be very offensive. And you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing the brand, UH or your school. So I think there should be chaperones as well as some kind of accountability. It’s just training and awareness, for the most part … People like to have fun in college, but you still have to be respectful, and I think if you emphasize that, that will limit the concern.”
Studying abroad is an experience that can help students become more worldly, open-minded and resourceful. All of these things can benefit their studies, future job opportunities and personal growth. While many resources do exist, it is still a chance that not all students get, so students should take full advantage of it if they can.
Opinion columnist Eileen Holley is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected].