Go forth and engage young people about the transformative power of travel and study abroad” was the rallying cry during this year’s Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. On Thursday, September 21st 2017, 100 travel bloggers, journalists, and digital media influencers joined forces at an invitation-only summit to encourage Americans to study, travel, work, and volunteer abroad.
With so many pressing issues facing the US, it may seem curious that encouraging the nation’s young people to study and work abroad is such a priority. But amidst all of the other national and international concerns, it’s important to take a big picture view in thinking about our country’s future. In an increasingly globalized society, having a culturally aware and sensitive resident base who are also curious about and empathetic towards those who live beyond our borders is critical to our economic growth and international peace.
According to the White House blog:
“By transforming interest in travel into study, volunteer, and work opportunities, the Administration seeks to significantly increase the number and diversity of young people participating in educational, cultural, and professional experiences internationally. Fundamentally, study abroad is about making an investment in the most capable, connected, and competitive workforce in the world.”
However, only 10% of American students participate in study abroad programs. Yet, the State Department believes that study abroad will create a more “capable, connected, and competitive workforce”. To help increase access, the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs aims to increase and improve access to study abroad programs to a broader demographic and encourage them to travel to diverse locations outside of traditional destinations like Europe (which receives 55% of US student who do study abroad). Through the creation of the US Study Abroad Office, The State Department will inspire, education, and in some cases, even help fund more people to go study abroad.
All of that said, with only 10% of American students going abroad, we can’t help but wonder what becomes of the roughly 90% of students who did not oversea during school? What becomes of these now adults who are not eligible for these new programs and scholarships rolled out by the Study Abroad Office? Surely, they, too, can benefit from going abroad and gaining that global perspective crucial for shaping them into global citizens.
Fortunately, international experience is not restricted to college students or to 2 weeks of vacation for working professionals. There continues to be a myriad of opportunities for adults to get abroad without sacrificing their professional careers or burning their savings.
Here are just a few great ideas to inspire you to pack your bags and experience the world as a working professional.
Negotiate a sabbatical with your employer
First off, find out if your company already has a sabbatical program in place and proceed accordingly. The rest of us will have to step up and negotiate for one.
Consider how long you’ve been with the organization, what contributions you’ve made to the team, and how a sabbatical will not only benefit you but make you a more effective, productive employee. Mark Horoszowski, Co-Founder of MovingWorlds, breaks down how to negotiate your sabbatical in this post, and even includes email templates to help you start the conversation with your employer.
Volunteer your experience abroad through skills-based volunteering
Use that gap between different jobs or after graduate school to volunteer abroad on a meaningful project that’ll stretch your professional skills.
Kelly Goebel, a Canadian engineer with 20+ years of experience in the old, mining, and infrastructure sector, wanted to draw on his professional experience to support a mission-driven organization to make a positive impact while developing more strategic and “soft” business skills.
Through MovingWorlds’ skills-based volunteering program, called Experteering, Goebel was connected to Tenoli, a Mexican social enterprise that helps micro-enterprises, such as your neighborhood bodega, grow sustainably through training and strategic planning so that they are better equipped to compete with big chain stores. In the process, the micro-enterprises were able to grow and provide high wage jobs to the local community.
Join a career accelerator program with an international component
Whether you’re looking to transition into a different industry or to enhance your skills and experience in order to grow within your existing company, a career accelerator program might be your ticket to gaining international experience without jeopardizing your career growth.
Career accelerator programs range in duration from 6 weeks to 2 years and are often self-paced to accommodate your working schedule. Some programs are industry specific while others are more holistic. Here are a few to get you started Amani Institute, Frontier Market Scouts, the MovingWorlds Institute, Fuse Corps, and the Experience Institute.
Get sponsored by your employer
Most employers have earmarked a budget dedicated to staff development. It is meant to cover workshops, class tuition, conferences, and whatever else may enhance your skills and help build organizational capacity. Talk with your manager or HR and see if a career accelerator program will qualify. This Huffington Post article shares more about why companies are increasingly sponsoring skills-based volunteering and travel programs.
Going abroad will have a different meaning and significance to different people. For us at MovingWorlds, going abroad is more than collecting stamps on our passports. We feel strongly about the power of cross-cultural exchanges and skills-based volunteer to create sustainable impact within our community and the world at large. By connecting knowledge and skills to parts of the world in need of it, progress can be made on all fronts to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.
To learn more about the White House Study Abroad initiative, visit the White House Blog. And join the conversation by following the #StudyAbroadBecause hashtag. We also hope you’ll join us to bring international experiences into the professional world using the #ExperteerBecause hashtag.
There just a few of the government initiatives and programs that encourage and support study abroad. We encourage you to share widely and generously and engage our youth on the transformative power of study abroad.