If you want to boost your GPA, graduate on time, or improve your knowledge of cultural practices, studying abroad may be the thing for you, according to a new study conducted by the University of Georgia.
Don Rubin, professor emeritus of speech communication and language education at the University of Georgia, established the Georgian Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative (GLOSSARI) in 2000 to track how study abroad experiences affected students’ academic careers across the 35-institution University of Georgia system. In 2010, the study found that students who choose to study abroad during their college years had higher graduation rates, improved knowledge of cultural practices and context, and improved academic performances than those who chose not to study abroad. Rubin, who could not be reached for comment at press time, said in a press release from Inside Higher Ed that the age-old belief that students choose to study abroad to get away from their studies doesn’t appear to be true.
“I think if there’s one take-home message from this research as a whole it is that study abroad does not undermine educational outcomes, it doesn’t undermine graduation rate, it doesn’t undermine final semester GPA,” said Rubin. “It’s not a distraction.”
Not all findings of the study were positive, however, such as the facts that self-reported knowledge of world geography actually decreased over time for both study abroad and for a control group and also that no significant difference in knowledge of global interdependence between the two sets of students was found. Despite these findings, Rubin said that education abroad can do very little to harm a student’s academic career.
“At worst, it can have relatively little impact on some students’ educational careers. And at best it enhances the progress toward degree,” said Rubin.
The study also found that in the more than 19,000 study abroad students and almost 18,000 control group students, 49.6% of those who studied abroad graduated in four years, compared to the 42.1% of those who didn’t study abroad. The GPAs also increased in the study abroad group from the time before they left to when they returned, 3.24 and 3.30 respectively.
Lauren Foster-Moore, an education abroad advisor at the UMass Amherst International Programs Office (IPO), said that the number of students choosing to go abroad at UMass each year is dramatically increasing.
“We keep getting more and more interesting students each year,” said Foster-Moore. “Sometimes the culture gap is tough, but if the American students persevere they will do great.”
Foster-Moore, who advises students who want to study abroad in Asia, has seen interest increase in this part of the world in recent years as well. Between 20-30 students study in Japan each year, 12-15 study in China each semester, and eight-12 study in Thailand each year.
“China draws those students who are interested in business and economics while many students are interested to learn more about Japan’s fascinating culture,” said Foster-Moore.
Leslie Fisher, who graduated from the University of Kansas and works with the College Year in Athens program, studied abroad in Greece for a semester in 2008 and had the time of her life.
“I had heard that it really changes your perspective on things and it did,” said Fisher. “The greatest part was knowing that I had mastered a foreign city and made local friends.”
Jennifer McKernan, who studied abroad in Ireland, Africa, and Greece and works with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), said that her experiences helped her to get the job that she wanted to and complete her degree on time.
“Studying abroad really enhanced my career path,” said McKernan. “Because I was majoring in international education it gave me a big advantage when I wanted to get a job.”
McKernan also said that no matter what a student’s major is, the study abroad option should be considered.
“Studying abroad looks excellent on your resume no matter what field you want to go into,” said Kiernan.
This story was originally written for publication in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the news publication for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Please visit the Collegian’s website at www.dailycollegian.com