Why study-abroad officials should stress the practical benefits early

It's not child's play

I’ve written before about study abroad programs and why schools are trying to help students explain to potential employers what they got out of their time in another country.

Now I’m thinking this approach should be applied to the period before they even choose a program.

I say this because I just stumbled across an article about how Minnesota State University – Mankato hosted a fall Study Abroad Fair earlier this week. It’s a great idea: 17 different organizations and faculty members who’ll talk to students about study abroad opportunities.

Yet for whatever reason, the message in the article was the usual hippie-dippy one:

“You learn so much about yourself. You really change as a person, and it’s always for the better,” said Sovell, a student in the biology department who recently traveled to Ecuador for an ecology and conservation program.

(She’s apparently an office worker in the International Center.)

Learning about yourself is wonderful. I did it myself. But employers don’t care. They want to know how a student’s experience abroad can be applied to the job.

In the future, from Day One the university might want to stress to students and the public the practical reasons for studying abroad. Then those who do go overseas might more quickly identify valuable experiences as they happen — or even seek them out.

And that could make the future job interview a whole lot easier.