The Global Advantage

The Global Advantage

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By Melissa Withers

In 1923, a professor at the University of Delaware sent eight students to Paris. He called his experiment the “Foreign Study Plan.” It was an unconventional idea at the time, and many decades would pass before study abroad became commonplace in the United States. Even as international programs expanded in the 1970s and 80s, the practice was most common among foreign language students, and not those pursuing other areas of study.

Times have changed. According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers: Association of International Educators, more than 240,000 U.S. students were enrolled in a study abroad program in 2007. As careers and industries become increasingly global, more and more students recognize that international experience can transform a career trajectory.

At Johnson & Wales, where there is a natural emphasis on experiential learning, a strong international program has become an important component — and selling point — to the educational landscape.

“Most students come to college without any international experience,” says Erin FitzGerald, dean of international programs and development. “The opportunity to leave the country and explore a field of study in a foreign environment offers students personal and professional benefits that are hard to duplicate in the classroom.”

Chief among these benefits, says FitzGerald, is a working perspective of how an industry functions both domestically and internationally. “The JWU international programs provide students with an opportunity to understand the global intricacies of their discipline and see how their field of interest is managed in a foreign environment. This comparative approach gives students a valuable way to understand their discipline, while challenging them to become better, more creative problem solvers.”

Thriving in the study abroad experience often speaks to a student’s ability to excel in new and challenging settings, says FitzGerald. For students of any major, the skills they use to navigate a foreign city or work across a language barrier are the same skills they will need to adapt to a challenging work environment, and tackle problems with confidence.

Many students understand the importance of developing globally relevant skills, and demand for international exposure is on the rise. Nearly 500 JWU students go abroad each year, says Elizabeth Allsworth, director of JWU’s Study Abroad program. Allsworth coordinates more than 25 programs that send students to some two dozen countries around the world.

She has the pleasure of working with students before and after they embark on study abroad. From this unique vantage point, she sees firsthand how the experience can change a life. “When students return from their international experience they return with more than a sense of personal accomplishment. There is a sparkle in their eye, a different sense of purpose and energy. You just know that they are visualizing their lives and their careers in a new way.”

For business students, JWU offers options in many countries. A popular choice is Sejong University, in Seoul, South Korea. There, students gain firsthand knowledge of how She has the pleasure of working with students before and after they embark on study abroad. From this unique vantage point, she sees firsthand how the experience can change a life. “When students return from their international experience they return with more than a sense of personal accomplishment. There is a sparkle in their eye, a different sense of purpose and energy. You just know that they are visualizing their lives and their careers in a new way.”

For business students, JWU offers options in many countries. A popular choice is Sejong University, in Seoul, South Korea. There, students gain firsthand knowledge of how cultural, socioeconomic and legal dynamics influence entrepreneurship, trade and business. Visits to businesses, government and financial institutions and on-the-ground projects provide a deeper knowledge of how multinational and domestic organizations operate.

JWU Study Abroad Program in EuropeCulinary arts students can learn the ropes of European cuisine through activities like JWU’s Switzerland program. In addition to working with products and producers central to European cooking, students examine the cultural context of the foods they are preparing. Seminars, practical kitchen courses and excursions to world-famous culinary destinations throughout the country add breadth to their knowledge.

Even freshmen have an opportunity for overseas study through JWU’s Sweden program at the IHM Business School in Göteborg. Students get a full-immersion experience, taking courses with IHM faculty who offer international perspectives and teaching styles.

Matthew Jacobs ’11 is quick to acknowledge that the opportunity to study in Sweden during his first year had a profound effect on his personal and professional development. “Being an international business major, the study abroad experience followed me back to the United States with real-life applications that I used in class and in my work,” says Jacobs. “The experience forced me to learn a lot about myself, my strengths and weaknesses and where I wanted to see myself in the future.”

The experience can also have a powerful influence on a student’s career plans.

“In just about any industry, individuals need to learn to work with people, colleagues and customers from other cultures,” says Fitzgerald. “JWU students who study abroad develop a unique cultural competency that many of their peers do not. It makes a difference to an employer to know that a student has international experience.”

Jacobs agrees. “Studying abroad offers very strong advantages when heading into the marketplace and preparing to find a job. The most obvious benefit is incorporating this experience into your résumé and work experience. Beyond that, it gives you real life situations, struggles and successes that you can draw upon while on the job, to solve problems or achieve a better outcome.”

image credit: top to bottom, Jacqueline Caputo '10, Marketing and Communications, Denmark and Sweden business program. “The fish markets in Siracusa, Sicily” Megan Carlsen ‘10, Food Service Management, Italy, College of Culinary Arts