Higher Education in Focus: Exploring Education Abroad

Higher Education in Focus: Exploring Education Abroad

September 24, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


>>Support for Higher
Education in Focus comes from the Penn State Alumni
Association, serving alumni and alma mater for
more than 145 years. On the web at alumni.psu.edu. Penn State Bookstore, now
in an expanded location in the HUB-Robeson Center,
improving the student experience at Penn State with
philanthropic support of student causes
throughout the university. PSECU, a credit union
providing financial services to its members throughout
Pennsylvania since 1934. More at psecu.com. And from viewers like you. Thank you. [ Music ]>>While U.S. participation in study abroad programs has
increased in recent years, fewer than one in ten American
students graduate having had an international experience. Those who do venture abroad
often describe it as one of the best decisions
they’ve ever made. In this edition of
Higher Education in Focus, Penn State President Eric Barron
will explore different types of education abroad
opportunities. Why they matter. And what can be done to
make them more accessible. Here to talk with him about
that is Michael Adewumi, Vice Provost for
Global Programs. Karan Sandhu, an international
mechanical engineering student who studied abroad in the UK. And Nicole Bernstein, a chemical
engineering student whose studies have taken her
to Belgium and China. I’ll be back later in the
show to talk one on one with President Barron about
his own experiences abroad, about keeping students
safe and more. Now, here’s President Barron.>>There are a lot of
studies out there that suggest that an engaged student
is healthier, happier. Has better grades. Builds a better resume. Gets a better job. If you define engagement as doing worthwhile things
outside of the classroom. And study abroad or having
an international experience certainly falls in that
category of engagement that is very valuable. And we have a double
whammy here in some ways. Because we also want our
students to have a world view. And to be able to approach
all the problems of the world with some level of knowledge
about other cultures. What are the opportunities,
Michael, at Penn State for international
experiences for our students?>>The opportunity for
international engagement for students is quite
tremendous. From faculty-led
embedded programs, where they can actually go
for a week to two weeks, even sometimes three
to four weeks as part of an in-house course being
taught by the faculty. And so by so doing they
can experience some of these international
perspective that you just spoken of. And, of course, to the ones
and where they can actually go for a full semester
or even a year abroad. And where they actually are
immersed in a different culture for a longer period of time and
then began to, so we have more than 200 different programs
around the world, the students.>>200?>>200 that they can
actually choose from. So the opportunity’s just
very wide and varied.>>Okay. So this is everything
from a short trip, faculty-led. To a highly organized year
classes in a university. How many countries are involved? Is this everybody
going to Italy and Rome and Paris, France or what?>>Actually, there are
more than 60 countries.>>That are involved?>>Involved in all of this. Of course, the majorities, they go to Western
Europe, about 60 percent. But more and more in the last
five, six years we’ve seen a lot of students go into the
nontraditional locations. Africa. Latin America. Even China. So, therefore, I think we
have begun to see that. Which is exactly what we
would like to see, yeah. So it is wide and varied. And the experiences
also vary widely.>>And do we kind
of steer students in a particular direction
that we have a relationship with the universities? So you work at that? Or really is a discussion
that occurs with the student?>>It’s more like give and take. I think that the student
will come to see an advisor. And they will basically
discuss what their goal is for that year. Sometimes they might
be persuaded that their goal can
be better achieved by going somewhere else. But it’s still up to the
student to actually decide where they want to go.>>Now, I suspect a lot of
students would sit there and say, you know, I
don’t speak that language. And that adds a level of risk. On the other hand, there may be
students that sit there and say, this is my chance to have
a much deeper understand of German while I’m doing
the following studies. So is the language a barrier? Or is this something where
you’re looking at somebody and say, don’t do that
if you you’re not ready to immerse yourself?>>Actually, the
language, people look at it as a barrier sometimes. But what we found
out actually is that it’s becoming
less of a barrier. Because a lot of countries, actually English has become more
widely spoken than ever before. So, when they go
there, they still find that they can communicate
even with English. Of course, what our
preference will be for them is to immerse themself in the
language and the culture. But they can actually get by. Germany is an example. Most people in Germany
[inaudible], they speak English. Sometime better than we do. You know, it’s quite
interesting.>>Definitely probably
better than me sometimes. Well, okay, so the two of you have both had
study abroad experiences. And, Nicole, China and Belgium.>>Yep, that’s correct.>>And, Karan, you
are from India.>>Yep.>>Come to the United States. Go off to the UK.>>That’s right.>>Tell us a little bit
about your experiences, either one of you go first.>>Well, as you mentioned,
we live in a global world. And we’re going to have
to collaborate with people from different cultures,
from different backgrounds. And it’s important to
understand how different people from different parts
of the world think. How they interact. So that’s one reason
why I chose to come to the United States
for that opportunity. And I had an amazing
first two years, and I wanted to learn more. I wanted a different experience,
so I decided to study abroad. And that was definitely one of
the best experiences of my life.>>Yeah, I actually
had some kind of nontraditional study
abroad experiences compared to I think what a lot
of students will go do. People tend to think of
study abroad as, you know, go take classes somewhere. My first experience
was in Leuven, Belgium. So I got to go actually
do research there in a lab through a program
called Euro Scholars. I only ended up taking
one class. And the rest of it was working
40 hours in a week in a lab where I was actually the
only American student. So we had students from
Belgium, obviously, where I was. But a lot from the Middle East. A lot from China. So it was a really
interesting experience to collaborate like that. Especially in engineering,
which is such a global field. And then my second
experience was in China only for
a couple weeks. Where I was sent through our
Engineering Leadership Program here to go attend the Global
Grand Challenges Summit. Which was held in Beijing. It was really a collaboration
of China, the UK and the U.S. talking about these 14 grand
engineering challenges. So everything from solar
engine to water purification to carbon caption
and sequestration. And how we can come together as
these three nations and start to solve those problems. It was another really cool, really perspective broadening
experience there as well.>>Were there many
other U.S. students that were involved in that or?>>So there was one other
student from Penn State. And then there were also
some other universities across the country
who also committed to this Global Challenge
Scholars program. It’s a national initiative
started by President Obama, where universities across the
country are basically pledging to graduate a certain number
of grand challenge scholars. And what that involves is
basically being involved in a lot of global applications, research applications all
related to these 14 challenges. So there were students
from Bucknell. Some from places like
California and Texas. There were a decent
number of U.S. students.>>So did you find
people’s perspectives were very different?>>Definitely. And I think a lot of
that is a function of the different challenges
that we’re facing as nations. Especially considering the U.S.
and the UK kind of on one side, and China on the other. So we’re a very industrialized
nation. And we’re kind of at the point
where we should be saying, you know, when it comes
to energy efficiency and global warming, which
was a really big focus of the conference. That we should be
making a difference here. We have, you know, we’ve been
industrialized for a while. And we can start, we
can afford to be cutting down our carbon emissions. Whereas, China, you know,
they’re still growing, and they’re still growing a lot. And their main form of
energy is still coal, and that’s a major
issue for them. And, you know, it’s easy to
say from our perspective, you know, you should stop that. Coal is bad. Coal is bad for the environment. You can’t do that. But from their perspective,
they have a country to grow. They have people to feed. They have jobs to build so.>>And a lot of coal.>>Exactly. And so the two perspectives
are very different. Yes.>>Michael’s a petroleum
and natural gas engineer. He could have stepped
right in there on the non-study
abroad part of this. So, Karan, you called your
experience life-changing. You said, it was one of
the best things I ever did.>>Right.>>So how did your life change?>>Well, for one, the
education was amazing. To be able to interact
with people from different parts
of the world. And I feel like what really
put the whole experience into perspective for me was, at
the end of my six months abroad, I traveled around Europe
and visited all the friends that I had made from
different parts of the world. And I felt like that was one of
the highlights of my experience. That, not only had I left
with an amazing education, but I had made personal
connections with people that I never thought
I would meet in cities and countries I never
thought I would visit.>>And it’s not going to change. You’re going to, you’ve
got lifelong friends in that process.>>Yep, that’s correct.>>And a whole different
set of perspectives. So just out of curiosity, how
did you step into this process of saying, I’m going
to go to Belgium? I’m going to go to the UK? This had a lot of
thought and planning? Or the opportunity was there? Or you visited the
Office of Global Programs? What got you to the,
how did you pick?>>It definitely takes
a lot of planning. And, especially, I don’t
know what your major is, but in engineering.>>Mechanical.>>Okay, yeah. So, you know, in engineering
people tend to think of it as very cut and dry. You have to take this
class this semester. This class the next semester. So it can be difficult
to go abroad. But the Global Education
Office, they’re really great at helping you kind of find a
program that’s good for you. So, personally, I didn’t want to take any chemical
engineering classes. So that’s actually
where I learned about the Euro Scholars program, where I could go
do more research. This was back when
I was thinking about going to grad school. So it would have been a
great opportunity to have that experience and then
go on for my future.>>Yeah, and I love traveling. I’ve been lucky to travel
to over 30 countries over the past nine years. And, yeah, so I wanted to
experience a new culture, a different environment. And Penn State has
exchange programs set up with universities
across the world. And so I chose the UK. And, in fact, I took all my
technical courses abroad. So in that sense it didn’t
affect my graduation. It didn’t affect my credits. So that was definitely
[inaudible].>>That’s a big plus.>>Yep, that is, yeah.>>So how did you prepare? Did you sit there and
say, I’ve got do this and this before I go to Belgium? I have to do?>>You know, no. It was more kind of,
you know, get in there and start running
from the beginning. So I did, you know, I did my
research on where I was going. What the language was. I was actually very
excited at first because there’s two
main languages in Belgium, French and Dutch. And I took French
in high school. So I was like, oh,
that will be great. I can communicate. I was in the Dutch region,
so that was pretty difficult. But do you find that a lot
of people speak English. And it’s really easy,
everyone was very friendly. Very willing to help you kind
of learn where you were going. A lot of the universities
have orientation programs for students. So it’s really easy to meet
other international students, other students from
your home country. And that helps a
lot very early on.>>Did you have preparation
or you just got on the plane and went?>>Well, I’ve been
to the UK before. So I kind of had an
idea what to expect. I spoke to a lot of
Penn State students who had completed the
same program last year. So that definitely helped. They kind of guided me
through the process. What to expect. What courses to take. What not to take. What are the benefits. What I should look out for so.>>And even what
transfers easily? What doesn’t stop you
from having a gap.>>Absolutely.>>So you got a lot of
advice from fellow students.>>Right. That’s a big
myth about studying abroad, where a lot of students believe that you might not
graduate on time. Your grades might drop. You might not be able to take
your major credits abroad. But Penn State has
exchange programs set up with a lot of
top universities.>>And so it can be smooth.>>Absolutely.>>So, Michael, is this
a traditional experience? Get up, go the Belgium and run? Or talk to your fellow students, make sure you’ve got
this organized and go? Or is a typical student spending
a lot of time in preparation?>>I think a typical student
probably spends a whole lot of time in preparation. But the kind of experience that
Nicole and Karan has is the kind that is not unusual
with student. As a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons why I
am personally excited about the opportunity for
students to study abroad. For instance, she talks about how her global
perspectives have been shifted. Because she went to China, understand what is
on the ground. Unlike just sitting here
and criticizing the Chinese. Going there actually
changes her perspective. And that is what you find
with all of the students. Their perspective
gets transformed. For some of them, come
back changing their major. For some reason they want
to change the world first. So it’s really amazing.>>That’s not a bad thing.>>It’s not a bad thing.>>Yes, I can imagine a few
advisors who would go, what? You did what?>>Exactly.>>So, but you also
describe 60 countries. And not all countries
are going to be the same.>>That’s correct.>>Some of them are
going to have visas that you have to work through.>>Yes.>>Immunizations, you know. That might be a very
different experience. Does the office participate
in this and assist people?>>Oh, yes. Oh, yes. In fact, one of
the things that we do, especially when they are going
to nontraditional locations. Let’s say African countries
and Latin American countries. Some of the infrastructure
will not be the same like they will find
in China or in Europe. So, as a result, we tend to
take a lot of preparation time to make sure that they’re
well taken care of. And also to make sure that,
if they get in trouble, either because of
health challenges or any other challenges. That we can actually help
them, assist them and get them out of the trouble
as quickly as we can. So we focus a whole lot on
risk management to make sure that we minimize the risk
that they’re exposed to. Even when they go
to those places. Because one of the cause, one of
the most common cause that I get in the office or we
get in the office is from parents who are concerned. You know, my daughter,
my son is going to this country and
that country. You know, I’m really
uncomfortable, so what do I do now? So we have to really
assure these parents that their kids will
be well taken care of. So we really spend a whole
lot of time doing that.>>Did your parents worry?>>No, not so much. Actually, I mean,
mine was after a lot of things were happening
in Europe. So a little bit more than
they could have been but.>>But not for China? They were okay?>>A little bit for
that too but.>>And you’re a world traveler.>>I think they stopped
worrying when I chose to come to the United States.>>They go, okay, he’s an adult. He’s taking care of himself for all these other
countries; right? It’s all a go. Did you feel like
you were ambassadors? That you represented
the United States? You represented Penn State? You represented India? You represented Penn State?>>Right, yeah. You’d be surprised to
know how many people in the world know
about Penn State. And how excited they are
about visiting some day. I always make it a point
to have my Penn State, either my Penn State
sweatshirt or my Penn State hat on when I’m traveling. And you always run
into people from China, from New Zealand,
from Australia. And they all know
about Penn State. And they’ve heard great things. And so they’re definitely
excited to meet you. And, yeah, and after
I came back, since I had such an
amazing experience abroad, I wanted to get involved. So I chose to become
a global ambassador for education abroad programs. So essentially my role is
to share my experiences. To talk about my stories. And hopefully inspire as
many students as I can to.>>To go abroad.>>To have the same
experience as I did, right.>>And to be such a
great representative for the university
at the same time. Similar?>>I think so. One of the things that,
you know, we always talk about is our perspective
changing when we go abroad. And I think it works
both ways as well. I had a lot of my
friends from, you know, other countries saying,
oh, wow, we didn’t think about Americans like this. You know, we didn’t, we
had all these stereotypes about your country. And those change as well. So I think it’s a
really great thing too. Especially because our
generation is becoming very internationally linked. And we’re forming these
friendships all over the world. And I think it’s going to
be better for our nation as a whole because of that.>>Now, how about the
cultural elements of it? I remember one time I
was giving a short course in Japan for a week. And, when I stop to think of it,
I felt like I was ill prepared to be polite, to be respectful,
to understand what’s going on. Is the typical student sort of,
did you work to be conscious of what might be customs
and traditions and?>>Definitely. I mean, in Belgium it does tend
to be a little more similar. But especially when
I went to China, things are very different there.>>Very different, yeah.>>And I’m part of the
engineering leadership minor, and a lot of what we
focus on is, you know, how to deal with international,
intercultural relations. So, through some of the courses
that I actually took from there, we discussed, you know, what’s
polite in China compared to what’s polite in the
U.S. So that helped.>>And, Michael, is
this part of the office?>>That is part of
the orientation.>>To give people an idea.>>Yes, yes. Actually they do that. And to make sure that the
students, because sometimes, when students go to
places, they could tend to bring the American
perspective and trying to enforce it on people.>>Yeah.>>[Inaudible] tell them. No, you don’t need
to enforce anything. Just listen. Carefully evaluate. While you may disagree with the
people, you at least understand where they’re coming from. And we think that is
just as important, even when you don’t agree.>>So this is not
inexpensive to study abroad. And so how do we
help in that sense? Do we discover that, if you’re
a need-based student that, we heard that, if you’re
an engineering student, sometimes people look at that. And structured curriculum
that makes it difficult, but you can get around it. If you’re a need-based student,
is the opportunity there? Are these students just
missing the opportunity to have an experience,
as Karan said, that was, changes your life?>>This is a great question. Because we know that
from our perspective, from our experience is that one
of the challenges for student to get the kind of study
abroad is money, is finance. But also sometimes
it is perception. And that perception, especially
when somebody has need-based, there are ways in which
we can help somewhat. Not a whole lot, but
we can help still. But some students, they
already have made up their mind that they cannot
afford to study abroad. So they don’t even
come to talk us at all. So I think one of the thing
we need global ambassadors to do actually is to
change the perspective, that you should talk to
advisors and find out. There could be opportunities
for assistance to actually be received.>>And I think we could talk
about this for a long time. Because it is, I have
had many experiences that I thought were
also so transformative. But just here with just a
little bit of time left. If you were to pick
a couple of words to describe what
your experience was. Or to say something
that was encouraging for somebody else,
what would you say?>>I would definitely say
it’s a global perspective. And it gives you a
better appreciation for what the world
is like as a whole.>>It’s life-changing. If you have the opportunity,
definitely do it.>>You’d do it over
and over again.>>I’ll do it again.>>And, Michael.>>Transformative. But not only for the student,
but even for their families. We found that it
transformed both.>>For faculty, for their
family, for everybody else.>>Faculty.>>Thank you so much for
joining me to discuss what I, is one of my favorite topics. And that’s how to
get students engaged in really worthwhile activities
that help them be successful. And study abroad
is a huge factor. Thank you.>>Thank you for having us.>>Thank you, Dr. Barron,
for the invitation. [ Music ]>>Next up on Higher Education
in Focus, I’ll talk one on one with President Barron about the
impact international experiences have on student’s academic
performance and more. While more students than
ever choose to study abroad in foreign countries, it’s
still less than about 10 percent of Americans who end up
seizing that opportunity. As a university and
president, are you concerned that almost three times more
international students choose to study here in the U.S. than
students here study abroad?>>Yeah. So, of course. It’s kind of an interesting
balance thing. If we have a lot of
international students on our campus, that’s another
way to get a world view; right? Because you’re having discourse
and interacting with people that come from very
different lives. So that has incredible value. But nothing beats actually
being in a country and watching and listening and learning
and seeing the culture. And seeing it as a real place. And so you really want as
many students to study. So I welcome the
international student, but I’d like to see a lot
more students studying abroad.>>Going along with that, how
does, students who study abroad and students who come here
from a foreign experience, how is their performance
level regarding other students who might not have those
other foreign experiences?>>So what we discover is that
engagement is what counts. That if you’re engaged in
worthwhile activities outside of the classroom,
especially things that enhance the classroom,
that you do better. You have a peer group
that does better because they’re also
doing those experiences. You’re happier. You’re enjoying it. Just look at the students talk about the experience
being transformative. Best decision in my life. That’s the type of thing. So here they are, they’re
enjoying their life better. They’re building a great resume. They have good grade points,
and they get great jobs. Think of a multinational company
looking at someone and saying, “Oh, you’ve been
to 30 countries. Okay, you’re somebody that’s
comfortable in the environment of modern-day business.” Or think of all the other
problems that you might work on. Huge value.>>I myself studied abroad
in London last spring.>>Nice.>>And, of course,
positive experience. Best decision of my life.>>Right.>>Just like everything else. And how, I know you
studied abroad. You said you were
in Japan for a week. Where else have you studied?>>So really it came to me
at the time where it was part of my professional experience,
not my undergraduate experience. So I’ve been to about
30 countries. I’ve hit every continent
more than once with the exception
of Antarctica. I’ve got to fit that
one in there somehow. And in each case it is
been an incredibly valuable and enjoyable experience. You know, Penn State sends a
large number of students abroad. But, if you think
of the percentage, which you just cited,
it’s not nearly, it’s not nearly enough students. Especially if we know
it’s so transformative.>>Do you have a favorite
country or city you’ve been to?>>You know what, I always
resist having a favorite. Even though I ask other
people the same questions. I had an extraordinary
time in New Zealand. I had an extraordinary
time in Nigeria. I did a review of a
university in Saudi Arabia.>>Oh, wow.>>Very different experience. I really value what I learned. As a graduate student, I
went behind the Iron Curtain to the Soviet Union
for ten days.>>Oh, wow.>>As a guest to the Soviet
Academy of Geological Sciences. Eye-opening. Each, I wouldn’t give up
any of the experiences.>>It can be frightening
for parents to let their children
study abroad, sometimes for the first time. And I know your guest mentioned
that we have connections to about 60 different countries. How is, helpful is the
Department of State in terms of finding up-to-date
information about particular destinations?>>I think that between
the federal government and between our Office
of Global Programs, which has very deep concern
for the safety of students. There is, if something’s going
on, there’s discussion ahead of time and decisions
that are being made. Sometimes they’re disruptive. If there’s enough going on
and we know parents are going to be uncomfortable and we think
that our students are going to be at risk, we’re not going
to put them in that position. Sometimes the student
isn’t too happy that we make that decision. Safety’s incredibly important. The information about
what’s going on in the world,
incredibly important.>>We, growing concerns
regarding global terrorism, especially within the past year. Are there any changes
we’re going to see in security regarding Penn
State study abroad programs?>>So we pay a great deal
of attention, as I said. Even for the faculty,
we have a registry so that we always
know where people are. So that, if there is a
risk, we can step in. And we will, using companies,
step in to assist a student or faculty member if we need to.>>Thank you so much.>>My pleasure.>>On behalf of Penn State
President Eric Barron, we’d like to thank our guests. Michael Adewumi, Vice
Provost for Global Programs. And Penn State students Karan
Sandhu and Nicole Bernstein, both of whom have
studied abroad. For Higher Education in
Focus, I’m Lauren Doyle. Thanks for joining us.>>Support for Higher
Education in Focus comes from the Penn State Alumni
Association, serving alumni and alma mater for
more than 145 years. On the web at alumni.psu.edu. Penn State Bookstore, now
in an expanded location in the HUB-Robeson Center,
improving the student experience at Penn State with
philanthropic support of student causes
throughout the university. PSECU, a credit union
providing financial services to its members throughout
Pennsylvania since 1934. More at psecu.com. And from viewers like you. Thank you.>>What’s the benefit
of studying abroad?>>One of the things that,
you know, we always talk about is our perspective
changing when we go abroad. And I think it works
both ways as well. I had a lot of my
friends from, you know, other countries saying,
oh, wow, we didn’t think about Americans like this. You know, we didn’t, we
had all these stereotypes about your country and
those changed as well. And I think it’s going to
be better for our nation as a whole because of that.>>Exploring education abroad on the next Higher
Education in Focus.