Thursday, March 15, 2012

More Reasons to Study Abroad

The cost of higher education has remained remarkably constant over the past three decades, but the proportion borne directly by students has increased far faster than any other sector of the economy, with the exception of health care. For that reason, many view study abroad as a luxury for "other" students to enjoy.

In reality, study abroad is no longer an extra qualification; it is increasingly expected, and a lack of study-abroad experience is seen as a deficit. Rick Steves explains some of the benefits in the video below, as part of the NAFSA campaign A Global Education: No Longer Optional. Follow the campaign to be put in touch with students from throughout the United States who are interested in studying abroad.

Fortunately, all of the BSU Geography faculty have lived and studied in other countries -- a total of a few dozen, at least -- and draw on those experiences in our teaching.

Even more fortunate is the greater number of opportunities for our students to study abroad. The university study abroad program provides access to dozens of countries for semesters abroad, short-term study tours, and research experiences in other countries. Increasingly, the department provides opportunities to study geography in other countries, most notably Brazil, India, and Nicaragua. Most participants in the annual Geography of Coffee study tour in Nicaragua were from other departments, but in January 2012, most of the participants -- including all of those shown here -- were geography majors or minors.

Geographers should also consider studying foreign languages, even if their study abroad experiences do not strictly require it. The students shown above, for example, were on a short-term tour with a (reasonably) Spanish-speaking professor and a fluent local guide, but most still found the experience was even more rewarding to the extent that they could use even a little Spanish.

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