GSA 2015 In Review

The State Of Student Travel

The Generation Study Abroad Summit 2015: In Review


Here is the national issue we face in general terms.


In general, US students aren’t globally competitive.

US Schools aren’t what we want them to be.
We lag behind most developed nations.

US Rank in Math & Reading 36th out of 62 developed nations.
Undergraduate Graduation ~70%

The United States has gone from the #1 high school graduation rate in the world to #22 among 27 industrialized nations in the last 80 years.

Read: Our Public Education System Is In Deep Distress.

Very few US citizens speak more than 1 language.
Only 1 in 5 US citizens speak a second language.

Bilingual 20%
(though this is iffy, read more here: Are we really monolingual?)

Too few US citizens (other than immigrants) are personally familiar with multiple cultures in an increasingly globalizing world.

Around 1/3rd of US citizens have active passports.

Only around 40% have ever been abroad.

Read: The Great American Passport Myth: Why Just 3.5% Of Us Travel Overseas Each Year!

In order for the US to remain a relevant cultural and economic world contributor, we need young professionals who know at least as much about the world in which they’ll be doing business as their peers in rising countries.

US Students – compared to their counterparts abroad – know relatively little about other nations.

This is a critical personal and professional handicap in a world where stories can travel across the planet in a matter of seconds.

Employers want graduates who create value for the company. Interviewers look for traits like creative problem solving, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and intercultural competence. In a globalized world, creating value for a company means being able to interact in an accepting, gracious, and understanding way with people from any country.

US undergraduate employment rates are disappointing at best.
Employment 6 months after graduation Around 47%
Overall Employment for all 20-24 year-olds ~90%

See more employment info on the Bureau Of Labor Stats website by clicking here.

Unfortunately, colleges are struggling to provide students with the skills they need to get hired after graduation, much less equipping them to thrive in the world of global business.


International education is the unfair advantage that everyone deserves.

The surprising discovery international educators have made can be summed up with a single question:

How many US undergraduates have jobs 6 months after graduation?

Just under half of those who haven’t studied abroad.

Almost all of those who have studied abroad.

Many have begun to realize that study abroad-once viewed as a luxury reserved for wealthy liberal arts students-actually has a dramatic and lasting impact on the lives of young people. An experience abroad provides students with exactly the cultural insights they need.

Read: What studies show about study abroad students.

Obviously, abroad initiatives won’t fix all the issues with education in the US, but they stand to actually mitigate a surprising number of them.

An experience abroad is arguably the single highest impact learning experience for late high school and early college years.

The most remarkable acknowledgement of the value of study abroad was probably made when the White House hosted a first-of-its-kind gathering of travel-industry professionals in Winter 2014 to brainstorm ways to get more students to study abroad.

Student travel has become a matter of national security.

The problem of helping the US become a relevant economic force in a globally empowered world turns out to be one of simply helping more students see the world while they’re still in school.

GPA increases for students abroad happened twice as fast
Ratio of employers who actively seek out students who have studied abroad 8 in 10
Study abroad students who reported increased maturity, self confidence, emotional stability, and adaptability 95%

This means that instead of designing a convoluted method by which we might encourage more students to learn languages, embrace a globalizing economy, and discover multifaceted foreign cultures on their own, we can just focus on sending students abroad and know that the desired results will follow.

Read: “Why study abroad?” by the Institute for International Education.

We also know that study abroad should in fact be more affordable than domestic education. In most countries, students can get a college education for cents on the dollar compared to the US.

Read: Should you earn your degree overseas?

And read: New study links study abroad and employability.

We’ve got to figure out not only how to send more students abroad, but how to do it sustainably. How can we help those students make the most of their international experiences?

Faced with various bureaucratic and financial challenges, the conversation around Generation Study Abroad has centered on four key action points.

These four things will make the biggest impact on success with study abroad goals, so we’ll explore them in the final section of this page: The Solution. Keep scrolling!



Here’s what we can do to take the opportunity and make it a reality.

The Generation Study Abroad Initiative’s goal:

studying abroad every year by 2020

And since we’re sending more students abroad, let’s make an effort to ensure that every student’s abroad experience is as personally and professionally rewarding as possible.

At the 2015 GSA Summit, international education professionals of all kinds discussed the issues surrounding having more students study abroad.

What has worked well? What doesn’t work? What do we need to do more? What are we overlooking? Where could we be applying more leverage for better results?

We identified four common areas of focus among all GSA participants.

Here are the four categories we discussed. You can click on each to learn more.

Invite the private sector in. Promote the benefits of studying abroad. Help students study abroad affordably. Give students the tools to make the most of the experience.

Generation Study Abroad initiative has allocated 5 years to make this goal happen.

We know we’ve got to send more students abroad, but how?

Right now the focus centers on:

  1. Correcting student and parent misconceptions.
  2. Empowering students to apply for grants and scholarships.
  3. Bringing more funding into the industry through fundraising and nonprofit advocacy.

We’re also focusing on increased student support, better marketing (communicating incentives to students and parents), and diversification of program types.

The general consensus is that if we can offer a lot of flexible, affordable short term programs, we can spike the numbers and send more students abroad than we’d be able to with the current paradigm.

By 2020 we expect to see 600,000 students study abroad, which will represent a two-fold increase in international education participation! That’s the Generation Study Abroad initiative.

We have an awesome goal, and just a few years to make it happen. Let’s keep at it.

Thanks for reading.

I put this together as a way to consolidate my thoughts from several different recent conferences and conversations.

I hope it was helpful for clarifying your some of your own thoughts about student travel, education and more. Thanks for reading. – Steve

Curious for more?

Since the Generation Study Abroad Summit in DC in early October, 2015, I’ve organized and formatted my notes for easy reviewing. You can explore them using the button below.

Check Out My Notes

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