Similar to many international educators, discovering the news on the White House Travel Bloggers Summit came as a surprise to us here at GoAbroad as it slowly trickled out on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Images of the White House Travel Bloggers Summit on study abroad and global citizenship flying across computer screens made us jump for joy at this level of attention. If you were anything like us, you felt a combination of rejoice with the desperate need for national attention on study abroad to foster international relationships and spark global citizenship…and a, why am I hearing about this just now, and why wasn’t I invited!?
Regardless of the Summit invitation status, much of the discussion wasn’t new for international educators. Send more students abroad as a whole, send them to nontraditional destinations such as Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America, increase the affordability of programs, increase engagement in the whole world, build networks abroad to improve international relations, the list of what’s been discussed at annual NAFSA and the Forum on Education Abroad goes on. The relief in getting this recognition from the White House left us at GoAbroad ecstatic for this collaborative call backed by the White House to spread the study abroad gospel.
Remarks from Benjamin Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, National Security Council, stated the White House wants to broaden how the United States interacts with the rest of the world and diversify the regions with which we interact. Their Young Leaders Programs Worldwide (in both Africa and Asia), 100,000 Strong in the Americas, and The Stevens Initiative all foster interaction with young people around the world, either on-the-ground or virtually to promote mutual understanding across the globe. Leveraging technology and connection is the next step in doubling the number of young adults abroad, and we’re right along with you, White House.
Supporting Study Abroad Since 1997
One of the biggest reasons this Summit took place particularly with travel bloggers was to raise awareness for Americans on travel and study abroad. Connecting around the globe virtually to build bridges and foster relationships is in the national interest, and these people are hot on the pulse of the travel industry while living on-the-ground in key areas internationally.
One can guess the impetus in choosing these bloggers was because the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs website alone doesn’t reach nearly enough young adults. The same questions they ask how to increase reach are the same ones we address daily here at GoAbroad.
Three key issues presented at the Summit have been recognized GoAbroad for the past 17 years; these same issues are what fuel all of our mission-driven staff to serve university aged students and beyond. We’ve created resources and tools to supply the necessary information students need to make better decisions about study abroad and other forms of meaningful travel.
Let’s take a look that them in closer detail:
Hurdle #1: Inspire Nontraditional Students and Increase Access to Funding
It was noted during the #WHTravelBloggers chat that during the 2012-2013 academic year, under 300,000 American college students studied abroad. This accounts for only 1.5% out of almost 20 million students enrolled in higher education throughout the country, which is crazy to think when you look at the numbers of incoming international exchange students. Added to these stats, is the fact that 76% of the students who studied abroad are white. This only goes to show that it’s more important than ever to change the paradigm of study abroad and increase access to those from diverse backgrounds. Organizations like the NAFSA Rainbow SIG, The Fund for Education Abroad (FEA), and the Foundation for Global Scholars (FGS) are great organizations helping to do this, and we recommend checking them out to learn more about how YOU can get involved.
Another key theme throughout the summit, and one international educators hear ad nauseum, is “I can’t afford it.” Our solutions? Our extensive Scholarship Directory and online crowd-funding platform, FundMyTravel. We’ve heard the concerns directly from students as part of our Roadshow Trips with STA Travel, and created these tools to make meaningful travel experiences possible for anyone despite financial barriers.
Many students don’t know how many scholarships are available, and our goal in making it accessible and searchable by country, award type, academic level, and subject, students find relevant information they need quickly.
Hurdle #2: Get All Americans to Participate
Why should study abroad and other forms of meaningful travel (such as intern, volunteer, teach, work) be limited to the mere 1.5% of 20 million students enrolled in higher education during the 2012-2013 academic year? Our mission as an organization is to do anything we can to show students it is possible to make their globally focused goals happen and to foster their lifelong growth as dedicated global citizens.
Hurdle #3: Most Students Don’t Recognize Resources That Can Facilitate These Experiences
Troy Peden, founder of GoAbroad, started the organization out of need when advising students at the University of Colorado at Denver. Students used to have to physically come into his office to peruse catalog after catalog on study abroad opportunities. In attempt to increase information access to programs beyond what University of Denver could offer and to provide access overall, GoAbroad was born. All such opportunities are now available on our directory and include reviews and interviews from former participants, articles on advice from choosing a subject, country, or city, and extensive interviews with experts in the field that lead programs and inspire a lifelong path of global citizenship.
What Do We Do Now?
Tweet at @ECAtState to get added to their Twitter list of people who participated in the Travel Bloggers Summit either in person or virtually.
Participate TODAY on Twitter in the #StudyAbroadBecause conversation at 3 p.m. EST to discuss benefits of study abroad, cultural immersion, global citizenship, and language learning.
Share the live stream video of the White House Travel Bloggers Summit on YouTube.
Get involved with the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative, or create your own in-house.
About the Author:
With a knack for Spanish and knowing how useful it would be in the future, Carrie studied, interned, taught, and worked abroad in Spain, Argentina, Ecuador, and Mexico. Midwestern born and Latina at heart, she’s now bilingual in Spanish and holds a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication. Prior to working with GoAbroad, Carrie taught university level communication courses for five years in New Mexico and Minnesota. A tenacious advocate for global learning as a vehicle to starting and sustaining the conversation in intercultural competency, Carrie is unapologetically adamant in facilitating transformative experiences abroad and turning curious students into dedicated global citizens.