Going Global—More Popular (and Important) Than Ever

By Brian Wahl, Assistant Dean, Global Education Office

go global logoDespite the difficult economic situation, more U.S. students are studying abroad now than ever before. There are nearly a quarter of a million Americans studying overseas, an increase of nearly 150% compared with students who studied abroad a decade ago, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2008. Not only are more students going abroad, but there is also a significant increase in students seeking non-traditional study abroad destinations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

One of the reasons that more college students are studying abroad is that they see these opportunities as a career investment. The job market for graduating students is extremely competitive now, so a meaningful experience overseas can distinguish students from their peers in a number of ways. New research by the Council for Industry and Higher Education found that international businesses are increasingly seeking graduates who have a global
awareness, and they value the initiative that students display in adding an overseas component to their undergraduate experience. Moreover, candidates who have lived abroad are seen by employers as better able to work well in multicultural teams and better able to examine a project or situation from different perspectives.

The Global Education Office works with students, both American and international, who are interested in exploring the myriad of opportunities to go global. Our team helps students identify the programs and opportunities that best fit their needs in terms of their academic plans as well as their career objectives. In the past several months, we have been working with students to explore new opportunities abroad, including the following: China is increasingly becoming popular for study abroad and now ranks fifth among U.S. students as a study abroad destination. In response, we’ve worked with students to identify relevant opportunities there and have helped several students apply to the University of Hong Kong’s “Live, Learn and Intern in China” (LLIC) program. LLIC is a summer program that combines a study abroad course with a 7-week internship in Hong Kong or Shanghai. Fourteen MIT students have applied this year and will be interviewed on campus by a representative from HKU in early February. A delegation from HKU will also travel to MIT in mid-March to discuss possible joint research initiatives.

For the first time, students in Course 6-3 will be able to participate in the Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME). Several students majoring in 6-3 have applied to participate in this year’s exchange, in addition to a strong pool of candidates from other departments. It is a particularly exciting time to be studying at Cambridge this year as the university celebrates its 800th anniversary. In order to honor the occasion, we recently completed the first in a series of short video presentations featuring MIT students who share their thoughts about participating in CME. Take a look on the CME website at http://web.mit.edu/cmi/ue.

In January, a group of 17 students participated in the IAPMadrid program, which allows students the opportunity to take a 12-unit Spanish II course taught by an MIT lecturer at the Instituto Internacional in Madrid. Complementing the classroom experience, our colleague Alicia Goldstein, Director of Placement and Program Development for MIT-Spain, coordinated visits to the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and the PromoMadrid offices so that students could broaden their knowledge of the key industries of Spain as well as the career opportunities there.

In the coming year, the Global Education Office will continue to explore other opportunities for students to go overseas, including hybrid programs such as LLIC that combine study abroad with an internship or work experience. We will also continue to collaborate with our colleagues in the Career Development Center and present joint workshops focusing on the benefits of going global.

Talking with students who have studied abroad, we often hear a couple common responses—the experience helped them to become a more mature learner, and it helped them gain more self-confidence and a wider perspective than if they had only stayed at MIT. This is fundamentally why we look forward to helping students find the right opportunities that will enrich their academic experience and their future careers in these very important ways.