Study abroad experience is a powerful asset–one that can be easily translated into skills that can land you a job. Greater Boston’s colleges and universities have certainly seen the potential, and have made global immersion a key component of their curriculum.
Over at Harvard Business School, first-year students are thrown into Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD), a required course that spans an entire academic year.
As part of the program, students are sent to a variety of countries, ranging from China to Argentina, to work with organizations and study business opportunities primarily in emerging markets. The objective is “to increase students’ global intelligence” and heighten their awareness “of the variation in business processes and capabilities, customers and the institutional environment across different markets.”
At Boston College, Professor John Gallaugher has been leading students on TechTreks. They initially only covered the East and West Coasts, but are now being taken abroad to Ghana come May. Participating students are given the opportunity to combine what they learn in the classroom with a week-long field study to Ghana to meet with senior executives, entrepreneurs and venture partners.
Babson College Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Dennis Hanno has also been bringing a team of undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty to Ghana for 10 years to teach entrepreneurship to high school students and other learners with the hope they will be able to start new initiatives within the community.
Called “Culture, Society and Entrepreneurship In Developing Economies,” the two-week winter mission helps students better understand some of the developing areas of Africa, including Takoradi, Sekondi and the Cape coast. This past winter, program participants also organized a region-wide business plan competition for more than 2,000 young Ghanaian entrepreneurs.
To assist students in developing their intercultural skills, Northeastern has launched a unique program called the Experiential Year Abroad. Through the program, students participate in a traditional semester study abroad and then are given the option of extending their time through an international co-op. Options include traveling to Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Italy and Costa Rica.
The day Emerson College President Lee Pelton was inaugurated, he announced he was committing himself to five initiatives, one being “global reach.” His goal is for Emerson to become “the world’s leading institution of higher learning in arts and communication.” To do that, he knows expanding and building stronger relationships in Asia and Africa will be key, as will strengthening the programs the College already has in the Netherlands and Los Angeles where students have already been studying.
It’s clear Greater Boston’s schools understand the importance of studying abroad. Outside of the city, two universities have even made studying abroad mandatory. And it’s not a bad idea. Not only can studying abroad provide a global perspective, but it teaches students independence, how to work with a diverse group of people and how to tear down barriers and communicate despite cultural differences. Studying abroad fosters skills like leadership, adaptability, flexibility and open-mindedness–all qualities employers, and the world at large, need.
As First Lady Michelle Obama said in 2011, “When you study abroad, you’re actually helping to make America stronger.”
Featured Photo Courtesy of Harvard Law School