Study abroad office to stress work experience

As the University sketches out its next 10 years of global expansion, it will set aside $5 to $15 million for new study abroad programs centered on work and research experience and more exchanges with foreign colleges.

The Office of Study Abroad will focus more on international research and internships, one of several changes to programs proposed in a draft of the University’s strategic plan released last week.

Director of the Office of Study Abroad Rob Hallworth said stressing extra-curricular experience would help set students apart when hunting for jobs because only a handful of affiliated programs offer internship options.

The globally focused plan also calls for saving a total of $9 million over the next 10 years by shedding partnerships with study abroad companies that rack up too many costs for students, cutting office expenses and “realigning” the programs’ price structures. Programs are already divided into six tiers ranging from $550 to $6,850 on top of GW’s regular tuition.

GW will look to add exchange programs in Brazil, India, China and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as programs tailored to international students, Hallworth said. It will also expand existing programs, but Hallworth said specifics had not yet been ironed out.

The funds, reserved tentatively in the draft of the strategic plan released last week, would also increase faculty abroad, offer more short-term programs and develop more courses that stress immersion, arts, culture and literature.

The office would push students to go on revamped GW programs and exchanges, he said, because “when a student participates in an exchange instead of a provider program, this reduces expenses to providers.” He added that exchange programs are also important for bringing foreign students to campus.

About 48 percent of students study abroad before they graduate, and Hallworth said adjustments to the program, particularly the focus on work experience, will help drive up that figure.

Institutions nationwide, including Northeastern University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Rochester Institute of Technology have already honed in on providing international work experience to students abroad.

Karin Fischer, a senior reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education who specializes on globalization, said universities that provide internships abroad are traditionally “more practically focused as opposed to liberal arts institutions.” She said GW’s efforts reflect a broader trend across higher education to pitch pricier classroom experiences abroad.

“It used to be the value of going overseas to get a cultural experience, the traditional study abroad experience,” Fischer said. “Now, a lot more students talk about going overseas as valuable to their career, providing experiences that help students abroad.”

Fischer pointed to a similar program at the University of Rhode Island that increased the number of students who went abroad.

“It’s a marketing strategy, a way to appeal to students” she said.

Most countries require students seeking internships outside of their classes to also have a worker’s visa, Fischer said, adding that some programs and universities help students with the additional process.

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