AAC&U News, June/July 2016
Facts & Figures

International Experiences Have Lasting Impact on Traditionally Underserved Students

Traditionally underserved students who study abroad during their undergraduate career find that the experience has a major influence on their academic and career choices, according to a survey of participants in the US Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program, which awards funding for study abroad and international internship programs to students of limited financial means. The survey of 1,591 participants, released in April, found that, of the 1,441 who continued as undergraduate students after their international experience, 35 percent chose a major or minor with an international or cross-cultural focus. Of the 819 survey participants who were graduate students or already had graduate degrees at the time of the survey, 36 percent had studied abroad at least a second time or conducted international field research. Forty-eight percent chose a path of study with an international or cross-cultural focus.

Gilman Scholars also felt the impact of their undergraduate international experience when it came to choosing a career. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said that studying abroad had led them to consider working in a wider range of geographic locations, and 54 percent said that they worked in a field with an international or cross-cultural element.

Reaching Students Traditionally Underrepresented in Study Abroad

  • Forty-four percent of survey respondents said they were among the first generation in their families to attend college, and, from 2013 to 2014, only 32 percent identified as white.
  • Seventy-nine percent of respondents said that finances—both the cost of travel and income forfeited by leaving a job—posed a challenge to studying abroad.

A Cross-Cultural Mindset

  • Fifty-two percent of those surveyed reported having concerns about living outside the United States before beginning their study abroad experiences.
  • After returning to the United States, 84 percent of survey respondents maintained relationships with people from the country in which they had studied, and 74 percent said they continued to be actively interested in the country’s culture.
  • Seventy-nine percent of Gilman Scholars surveyed said that they followed news coverage of the country or region in which they had studied after returning home.

Influencing Professional Aspirations

  • Nearly half of respondents said that their international experience clarified their career trajectory.
  • Eighty-three percent said that as a result of studying abroad they sought jobs in which they could interact with people of different backgrounds and nationalities, and 47 percent said they looked for companies and organizations with diverse employees.
  • A significant number of Gilman Scholars—45 percent—said that they now work in a setting where they can use a foreign language.

Did You Know?

  • Sixty-four percent of Gilman Scholars who returned to undergraduate studies either continued or began taking foreign-language courses.
  • Gilman Scholars report encouraging their friends and family to engage in international experiences; 53 percent say they influenced someone they know to participate in a study abroad or international internship program.
  • Thirty percent of survey respondents indicated that they pursued educational opportunities as a result of their experience as a Gilman Scholar, including Fulbright scholarships and professional certificates such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Read the State Department’s full report here. Visit AAC&U’s website for information and resources on global learning (including the new compilation Essential Global Learning) or to register for AAC&U’s upcoming conference, “Global Learning and the College Curriculum: Nurturing Student Efficacy in a Global World.”

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.

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