Colleges Encourage Students To Study Overseas

Sunday, November 19th 2006, 2:22 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Colleges and universities are encouraging their students to study overseas to understand worldwide events and situations from more than a U.S. perspective, Oklahoma college officials said.

Colleges want to shape their students into globally aware citizens, and business leaders know their companies will need internationally savvy employees, said Cheryl Matherly, University of Tulsa's associate dean for global education.

Matherly said the perceived cost of international studies often scares students away, but many colleges, including TU, work to make the experience affordable, letting students use their financial aid and scholarships abroad.

Eight percent more U.S. students studied abroad in 2004-05 than the previous year, and the number has risen steadily over the past several decades to almost 206,000 students in 2004-05, the Institute of International Education reported in its study, ``Open Doors 2006.''

The group has set a goal of 1 million U.S. students studying abroad by 2017.

For several years, the State Department has encouraged students to study ``critical-need languages,'' such as Arabic, Chinese and Persian, and to study outside the traditional destinations of Western Europe and Australia.

Congress appointed the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program a year ago. That resulted in a U.S. Senate bill in July calling for more students to study abroad to become knowledgeable about international affairs ``in an age of global trade and business, global interdependence and global terror.''

More students with experience studying abroad would be better able to work with colleagues from other countries, according to the bill, and they would sustain the United States' global leadership.

Douglas Price, Tulsa Community College dean of global education, said students who study abroad grow personally and professionally, gain cultural sensitivity and flexibility, and see the United States through other cultures' perspectives.

TCC offers short international trips as part of various classes in the humanities, languages and geography in May or the summer, but it does not yet offer study abroad during fall and spring semesters.

When Savannah Hatch, a master's degree student at TU, has interviewed for jobs, employers are fascinated with her international education in Germany and impressed that she is bilingual, she said.

Matherly said students have to learn to talk about their travels as relevant experiences to their career goals, not just fun vacations.