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Together with more than 150 partners from the education, business and government sectors, the Institute of International Education (IIE) has launched a five-year initiative, Generation Study Abroad, with an aim to double the number of US undergraduate students studying abroad by 2019.
Even though the number of US undergraduates going for international academic experience is increasing, it is still less than 10% of all US college students. According to the Open Doors Report (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2013), 295 000 US students studied abroad in 2011/12, both for credit and non-credit programmes. The target set in the IIE initiative is to reach a number of 600 000 students by 2019.
So far, more than 150 higher education institutions of wide-ranging profiles have joined the initiative by signing the Generation Study Abroad Commitment but IIE aims to involve much more partners - at least 500 US colleges and universities. Underlining the importance of international experiences for personal growth and as an asset in high demand on the labour market, project partners will work on encouraging students to study abroad for a longer or shorter periods during their undergraduate studies.
The time US undergraduates tend to spend abroad ranges from a few weeks, mostly during summer or winter terms, to a full-degree study period of over a year. In fact, data show that 60% of US students with international learning experience spent only 8 weeks or less abroad, which may bring into question the actual impact of such short-lived international episodes, either from a personal or professional perspective. According to IIE, the Generation Study Abroad project will include research on the obstacles to international mobility in order to identify and overcome them and share best practices that will motivate students to jump on the study-abroad wagon. One of the project phases will consist of engaging 10 000 alumni and students, hopefully to help track students’ experiences and support their international paths in a sustainable and effective way.