Why more students are studying abroad

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By Robin Gee

Graduates with study abroad experience on their resumes land their first jobs faster, earn higher starting salaries and are more likely to find jobs within their field, according to “The Impact of Studying Abroad on Recent College Graduate’s Careers,” a survey by the Institute for the International Education of Students, also known as IES Abroad.

To prepare more Americans to compete on the world scene, the U.S. Congress established the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Commission in 2005 that set a goal of one million study abroad students by 2017. Community and technical colleges play a key role in this effort by expanding access to international education opportunities.

Why should technical college students study abroad?

Traditional study abroad programs have been semester-long trips focusing primarily on the arts, humanities and language immersion. Yet, today almost any career requires at least a basic understanding of global issues and concerns.

Students in two-year colleges on the fast track for careers in science, engineering, technology, health and business benefit from experiences abroad as do those who want to transfer to bachelor’s degree programs and beyond. Global awareness and experience not only look good on a resume, they can demonstrate depth on a transfer application.

Skills learned through study abroad experiences are many of the same skills employers say they look for in candidates, including:

  • strong communication skills and cultural competency
  • the ability to work with diverse teams
  • understanding of global networks and supply chains
  • knowledge of global issues and economic changes that can impact their fields

Study abroad at technical colleges: Flexibility and Service

Flexibility is crucial for many technical college students busy with work and family commitments. Options can range from a few days to a full semester. Service learning is a key component in many programs, allowing students to practice skills they’ve learned while making a genuine difference in the lives of local populations.

Faculty-led service learning programs provide hands-on skill building for students entering science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields. Health care and business program students also benefit from opportunities to practice in real-world situations.

Colleges throughout the Wisconsin Technical College System offer study abroad opportunities. For example, Madison College’s renewable energy study abroad program in Costa Rica is one of the first of its kind. Students participate in an intensive service project installing solar panels in a rural community that has had little or no access to electricity. The program has been so successful that it is expanding to Belize this year.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College business students study supply chain management in Brazil, while health care students can participate in an intensive Intermediate Clinical Practicum in Jamaica through Fox Valley Technical College. Students at Wisconsin’s technical colleges have study opportunities in China, Peru, Ireland, Spain, Thailand and more.

Federal and privately-funded scholarships are available for many of these opportunities, as well as flexible payment plans, internship and work study opportunities.  

Learn more about study abroad opportunities, contact your local college or search “study abroad” on your college website.