Studying abroad is on the rise for students in America. In the 2015-2016 school year, over 335,000 U.S. undergraduates studied abroad, according to the latest data from the Institute of International Education (IIE). Studying abroad teaches and shapes students in a lot of different ways.
“Studying abroad is an educational experience that will prepare you to live and work as an informed citizen in a globally connected world,” said PLNU’s Office of Global Studies.
One way in which students become better-informed citizens is through examining and learning about their perceptions of America while they are abroad and when they return home. Until students go abroad, it can be hard to objectively look at the United States. Robert Gailey, a professor of business and the Director for the Center of International Development at PLNU, has led students on study abroad experiences in England and Ireland. He explains that students develop a clearer view of the world when they study abroad.
“I believe most students who study abroad come back with a very different view of America when they return,” said Gailey. “They begin to understand that how we do things in our country or what we think about the world is not always how the rest of the world perceives things.”
The United Kingdom is the most popular destination for studying abroad, with 12% of students choosing to study there in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the IIE. Many students from PLNU have studied in the United Kingdom and learned about the ways in which they perceive America.
Jessica Fernandez, a sophomore at PLNU who studied in England during the fall of 2017, explained how she realized how accessible America is, yet how much people do not realize or appreciate this accessibility and the culture behind it.
“I feel like we do not have boundaries here the way that they do over there,” said Fernandez. “I feel like we are bigger on recording and not enjoying the moment as much. And being over there, you’re like, wow, the history is so rich and there is so much going on every time you turn the corner. I think it is the same here, but people just do not realize it as much.”
Alyssa Butler, a junior at PLNU, also studied in England during the fall of 2017. She commented on how other countries perceive America.
“Some of the perceptions are true and fair, but not for all of America,” said Butler. “America is huge and there are different types of people all across the country.”
Changing perceptions while abroad also helps students to look at the world more critically.
“I think it enhances the rest of the college student’s learning as they begin to engage their course materials from a broader perspective and understanding of the world,” said Gailey.
Morgan Wurtzler, a sophomore at PLNU, studied abroad in England in the fall of 2017. She spoke about how she came to view her relation to the world.
“I made so many friends while abroad and learned so much,” said Wurtzler. “It was really fun to talk to people and find that common ground.”
Common ground in the perceptions of the world is a large part of what students learn who study abroad. Nina Evarkiou, a professor of writing at PLNU, led students on a study abroad session in Greece.
“Coming back, you realize we are not alone in this world,” said Evarkiou. “We need to be a part of a global society.”