Record Numbers, Gov't Action Encourages 'Year of Study Abroad'

With 2006 marked as the "Year of Study Abroad," the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is promoting the global experience at a spiritual level.

"Not only do students get a sense of a global community, but they really learn what the Apostles Creed means by the universal Catholic Church, to worship with and take communion with believers from very different walks of life," said Ken Bussema, CCCU vice president for student programs in a released statement.

According to the Open Doors 2005 report on international education, American students are studying abroad in record numbers, taking their interests beyond familiar borders for an international experience. The most recent annual report, published in November by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, adds encouragement to groups promoting the national trend.

"Many U.S. campuses now include international education as part of their core educational mission, recognizing that increasing the global competence among the next generation is a national priority and an academic responsibility," said IEE President Allan E. Goodman. "To encourage more U.S. students to strengthen their language and intercultural skills, as well as their ability to collaborate across borders, business leaders need to demonstrate the economic value of study abroad by rewarding international experience in their hiring and advancement practices."

"Study abroad gives students opportunities to look both inward and outward," said Bussema, who oversees 12 semester- or summer-long student programs or culture-shaping programs. "Interacting with differences they encounter challenges students to look at the shaping influences in their lives, and examine what their core, important values are, and why."

S. RES. 308, a resolution passed by Congress on Nov. 10, 2005, calls higher learning institutions to promote and expand study abroad opportunities which were noted to enhance core values and skills of higher education.

Encouraged by the congressional move, CCCU’s Bussema said, "It's a commentary that we're learning in our world today that we must discover ways to make connections with people very different from ourselves, to build bridges of cooperation rather than walls.

"I'm glad to see the government recognize that we have to find ways to relate to other people and other cultures."

A 2002 American Council on Education poll found that only 1 percent of students from the United States study abroad each year. In the past couple of years, the number of American students going abroad surged by 9.6 percent.