Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's a small world, and it's getting smaller...

My alma mater recently announced that its five-year fundraising program had ended (thankfully!) and the goal had been surpassed: $3.88 Billion!  Vowing not to spend it all in one place, they also mentioned that among their primary objectives was to ensure every undergraduate would be afforded the chance to study abroad during the college years.  Where was this when I was in school?

It's a wise move, actually.  The world is changing.  Thomas Friedman will tell you it's flat, and it's also smaller than ever. As a result, college graduates are entering a global job market with greater opportunity and a different set of demands than faced by previous generations of professional job seekers.  Study and work abroad programs provide good experience and improve students’ career prospects at home particularly when they compete for slots with global companies.

Research from The Open Doors project at The Institute of International Education (IEE) indicates that over 260,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2008-09, about double the amount of a decade earlier.  Almost half of these students were social science or business/management majors, the students most likely to apply to global corporations for entry-level positions.

Besides traditional study abroad programs, international internships, typically for college credit, provide perspective and experience for students to become competitive in today’s job market while they build cross-cultural knowledge and global skills.  NAFSA: Association of International Educators supports many programs to support this goal and provides support to colleges worldwide.

What types of programs does your college offer to prepare students for this global environment?  What specific activities does your department or course use to prepare students to compete internationally?  Share your ideas here.