Thanks to today’s hyper-fast technology and communication resources, it’s easy for students to hold meetings from across the globe or to research every detail of a distant culture. Yet for all of our resources and technology, nothing can ever hold a candle to the experience of actually traveling or studying in a foreign country. Students not only gain incredible life experiences, but learn to deal with challenges and barriers head on, are considerably more marketable to employers (a 2008 article from Abroad View, a non-profit that assists students in finding study abroad placements, claimed that over 67 percent of human resources executives felt that a job applicant with study abroad experience was instantly distinguished from other applicants), and helps students expand their worldview in an ever-diversifying world.
Dozens of Case Western Reserve University students take advantage of studying abroad each semester, not to mention the popular short-term study abroad courses offered during university breaks. CWRU has sent students from a variety of majors and interests to just about every continent in the world for a semester or year at a time, and most students that return have indicated that it’s an experience they wouldn’t trade for the world. However, it is unusual that, despite there being so much interest and value in studying abroad, CWRU lacks an actual study abroad office or program. Without an actual office or staff dedicated solely to studying abroad, students often note that the process of returning to the university, depending on the student’s academic adviser, can become particularly tedious and stressful as some students have to spend a lot of time to ensure the credit they’ve earned at foreign institutions will transfer back to CWRU. Additionally, since CWRU lacks its own study abroad program, students and administrators have to cope with the additional step of applying to other universities’ programs, such as those offered by Arcadia or Butler Universities, or those managed by non-profit organizations like IES Abroad. It would be beneficial for both students and administrators if CWRU eventually established its own study abroad office to handle the application and returning processes.
In addition to the traditional semester or year abroad, other programs have developed for students who either don’t have the time to study abroad for an extended amount of time as well as for students looking to gain work or research experience in the field. Some departments, including the anthropology department, offer single-credit courses that allow students to earn credit directly through CWRU by working or researching in international labs. Other students have also gained international experience by participating in an overseas practicum, a full-time work experience managed through the Career Center. Finally, short-term study abroad experiences are offered in both bioethics and applied social science. These one or two week trips give students who don’t have much time in their schedules to gain some international experience during holiday breaks. Considering the popularity of these short programs, we hope that someday additional departments will implement similar short-term programs to accommodate a wider variety of students’ academic interests.
Despite the bureaucratic problems that many students run into, most students who return to CWRU after studying abroad are eager to recommend the experience to others. As employers become more globalized and having international experience becomes ever more marketable, we hope that more CWRU students will take advantage of the opportunity to go abroad than ever before.