Study Abroad Can Change Your Life -- And Your Country

March 28, 2012
Deputy Assistant Secretary Fabiola Rodriguez Ciampoli at Roundtable Discussion

I am living proof of how study abroad can change your life. I came from Mexico to the United States as a Fulbright graduate student. That led to -- in addition to a master's degree -- falling in love, getting married, becoming a U.S. citizen, campaigning in the 2008 presidential election, and ultimately being chosen to lead public diplomacy for the Western Hemisphere at the U.S. Department of State.

Although most people realize that study abroad can change an individual's life, they often don't recognize how important international exchanges can be as a contribution to relations between our countries. Study abroad enhances our understanding of other cultures, provides an enlightening perspective on our home country, and builds partnerships that foster progress toward greater prosperity, economic equality, and sustainability. Recognizing the importance of international exchanges, President Obama launched 100,000 Strong in the Americas with the goal of bringing 100,000 Latin American and Caribbean students to the United States and sending 100,000 U.S. students to study in Latin America and the Caribbean annually. Supporting this bold educational exchange initiative is one of the U.S. government's highest priorities for the Western Hemisphere.

The Department of State recently hosted an education roundtable with local colleges, universities, educational associations, and nine U.S. Ambassadors serving in countries in the Western Hemisphere. The Ambassadors offered insights about the environment for educational exchanges in the countries where they serve, and explored ways they can work with the U.S. higher education community to achieve the 100,000 Strong in the Americas goal. The associations and schools offered to work with the Department of State and our Embassies to identify U.S. partners interested in exchanges with Latin America and the Caribbean. It was striking to see how many of our most senior Ambassadors in the region view promoting educational exchange as an essential part of building strong bilateral relations.

The 100,000 Strong initiative got another boost from a conference the Department of Commerce, Department of State, and Georgetown University recently sponsored. At the conference, some 500 government, business, and academic leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere came together to discuss the importance of improving and internationalizing our higher education systems to produce workers equipped with the knowledge and experience to compete in a global economy. Educational exchange is not just a nice thing to do; it's the absolutely necessary thing to do. In the words of a Brazilian businessman who was quoted at the conference, "I am not doing this (supporting education) because I am a nice guy. I am doing it, because if I don't, I will go bankrupt." That's how important it is to have a skilled, well-educated, and culturally savvy workforce in the 21st century.

At the conference, I had a great roundtable discussion with government and university officials from the Western Hemisphere about what we need to do to increase educational exchange among the countries in the region. I was able to share with our guests some updates on 100,000 Strong in the Americas. I was thrilled when Vice Minister Botero of Colombia said, “We welcome 100,000 Strong; it's like a ring to our finger.”

International exchanges are, without question, the best way to build lasting ties of international understanding and friendship, as well as to prepare for success in an increasingly interconnected global economy and workforce. As we work with our partners in the region to increase exchange opportunities, students interested in studying abroad should know that there are a lot of opportunities already out there. Check with your study abroad or international exchange office. If you are overseas, contact our EducationUSA advisers who work in hundreds of advising centers around the world.

Study abroad. It could change your life, and your country.

Comments

Comments

Elizabeth
|
Colombia
March 28, 2012

Elizabeth in Colombia writes:

Dear Fabiola,

What you are saying is so true; however, how do you expect this benefit to be reciprocal when most of the students happen to have your same luck and end up staying in the foreing country? (due to lack of employment or opportunities of advancement in their homeland) I support the US sending American students abroad, for it is a good start, but in all actuality what will be the real impact of this 100,000 students when they come back to the US since you have a population of 313,262,110? You are up to a great start but those students need to increase dramatically; if you really want a change 100,000 people cannot do much when you are talking about sending them to many countries not all to one (so the comment of the Colombian vice-minister does not apply.)

Also, I think that by you staying in the States you only broaden your perspective on things. How does this benefit mexicans if you are not longer there to share what you learned and help develop the environment trhough your abroad experiences? (I am not judging your personal case, I am just saying that if this is the general situation how are others (meaning the people back at the motherland) benefiting? I have had the opportunity to study abroad several times in different countries and totally agree with the sentence "[it is imperative to have] a skilled, well-educated, and culturally savvy workforce in the 21st century," but just by sending students abroad you won´t solve the problem. Governments need to commit to the plan and provide jobs, scholarships, and all sort of opportunities for these students to actually come back and be able to provide a change. The question here is not about welcoming students but what is every country going to do to assure that everyone has the opportunity to study abroad.

Thank you so much for sharing this with the public I enjoyed reading it!

Best of luck,

Elizabeth

Aaliya
|
Bangladesh
March 28, 2012

Aaliya in Bangladesh writes:

Indeed, studying abroad or being an international student here at AUW, in Bangladesh, i got to know more about diverse culture at our university. When we study within our countries, our minds do not change while when we experience new life among new culture it manipulates our minds, and makes us ready to face challenges.

Julia
|
Ohio, USA
March 29, 2012

Julia in Ohio writes:

I completely agree studying abroad could deffinitely change your life. I participated in an exchange program and I was for like a year in Greece (Thessaloniki). I dare to say this was a very valuable period that opened a lot of doors in front of me. I met so many people and learned so many things I didn't even suspect about. Not to mention it was so relaxing and entertaining, I felt like being on a vacation the whole time.

Mel
|
Australia
March 30, 2012

Mel in Australia writes:

Study abroad is a fantastic way to learn about other cultures. It demands a lot of the individuals - challenging previously unquestioned values and opinions about ourselves and other cultures. It fosters a commitment to understanding other cultures and highlights the huge benefits that come from moving towards a true understanding of other people. Realistically it is an expensive enterprise that is not practical for many people, so its impact is gradual. But if governments support study abroad and enable more students to go on these programs, the impact and influence will increase. In response to Elizabeth, in Australia, where we have a huge cohort of Asian students studying internationally, who often find it hard to integrate with Australian students - those Australians who study abroad come back to their home universities with great empathy for the international students as they have learned first hand what it is like to feel isolated in a foreign culture. Those students will be better placed to befriend the international students than the locals who have only experienced life as an Australian.

Olivier
|
Kenya
March 30, 2012

Olivier in Kenya writes:

yes I agree that studying abroad can be achanging opportunity both to an individual and ones homeland country but the problem is getting that chance especially with the recent increase in visa denials which has shuttered so many people's dreams of studying in ones desired country abroad.

myself having the experience of an American visa denial I too believe that our homeland countries should get involved in such cases because it has an additional economic growth to the country.

also the abroad countries should give us opportunities to attain their knowledge through visa issuance especially the student visas because most of us go to the embassies with genuine reasons and is to study.

I have not lost hope of being able to study in my desired country abroad (America) and I still believe they will give me that chance.

with regards,

Olivier

John P.
|
Greece
March 30, 2012

John P. in Greece writes:

@ Olivier in Kenya

If you really like America... you'll get youself a real visa!

I wish you the best Bro!

As a wise friend says: it's an attitude...

Nicole C.
|
Brazil
March 31, 2012

Nicole C. in Brazil writes:

I'm currently studying abroad for 6 months in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I'm from Dallas, Texas. Last summer of 2011 I was in Italy studying for 5 weeks. Next summer of 2013, I have plans to study abroad in London. I would like to know what kind of action will be taken by the US to reinforce this act of studying abroad. How can the US reward those students that take initiative to continue helping the world become a more unified place?

Olivier
|
Kenya
April 1, 2012

Olivier in Kenya writes:

@ John P in Greece

thank you very much and I really hope I will get it soon.

And what do you mean by a real visa??

Olivier

John P.
|
Greece
April 3, 2012

John P. in Greece writes:

@ Olivier in Kenya

I apologize for the delay in response Oliver.

“Feeling” am American is an attitude!

What I mean is that if you really love USA –and I truly believe you- you can act as an American wherever you are. So, even if you don’t get yourself a U.S. student visa you can still follow your American dream and beliefs… from Kenya. You can choose an American University there, keep on believing and fighting for the U.S. values and ideas and you’ll soon be impressed what a “real” visa can offer to your heart and soul.

Of course I wish you the best in your attempts to cross the Atlantic and I hope to believe that your student visa application soon will have the stamp APPROVED!

Until that day, keep on dreaming and fight for both the student and the “real” visa vision.

Again, I wish you the best,
John

Hayat A.
|
Pakistan
April 10, 2012

Hayat in Pakistan writes:

i am hayat ali, i am currently study in my homeland i want to study abrod in any international university to change my life as will as my country life and do somthing more and more for mainkind in world and prove myself as a good leader .

James C.
|
Virginia, USA
June 12, 2012

James C. in Virginia writes:

My name is James C., I am a Captain in the United States Army and currently a student at CGSC and my statement is my own opinion and not the official position of the United States Army. I agree whole heartedly with the concept of foreign exchange. I am a graduate of the United States Military Academy but prior to graduation served as a missionary in Guatemala for two years and participated in many exchange programs in the Academy. From my experiences I learned valuable lessons. Learning to see outside of my social economic sphere has proven to be the most important lesson of my life. Living in a foreign culture, learning another language, and developing relationships outside my culture provided a foundation of understanding of differing views that has greatly benefited my life.

While serving in the Army I spent 15 months in Iraq. I credit my previous experiences living outside the United States as the foundation that allowed me to work effectively with the Iraqi people. Based on my experience I would highly recommend that every student should participate in an emersion program outside of their culture. As globalization continues to bring cultures together it will continue to become more important that we can see outside of our own culture to allow us to be an effective member in a growing world society.

MAY B.
December 14, 2012

May Tinh B. writes:

Thanks for sharing this interesting post.

Ros D.
|
New York, USA
March 29, 2013

Ros in New York writes:

Yes study abroad CHANGED our lives...My Son Ravi lost his life due to negligence, carelessness, disregard for human life and poor decision making...was taken to beach that was not advised for swimming where four rivers pour into it. It a wonderful experience, but if our children does not have the opportunity to bring home those experiences it serves no purpose. WE ALL LOST OUR LIVES, MY SON AND OURS. THE PAIN AND DESPAIR CANNOT BE COMPARED. I did not get a sorry from Duke/OTS. Reform, Transparancy and ACCOUNTABILITY NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

.

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