Study Abroad and International Exchanges
There are many reasons why participating in a study abroad program or international internship is important to your son or daughter’s overall education and personal growth. The opportunity to live in another culture, to meet people from around the world, to increase independence and self-confidence, and to improve foreign language skills are life changing experiences for students.
However, there also are some very practical reasons why investing in an international experience is essential to the professional future of your student. The Oregon Roadmap for Language Learning report notes the following:
- Employers need culturally competent employees who know a second language.
- Multilingual nurses, police officers, military personnel, store clerks, and tour guides are essential to Oregon’s success in a connected world.
- Oregon’s globally oriented business (both multinationals and small to medium enterprises) have a high demand for employees in leadership positions with strong technical skills who can also communicate effectively with domestic and international colleagues.
- Domestically oriented Oregon employers need to deliver services to speakers of various heritage languages and overseas visitors.
- Oregon is located on the Pacific Coast with a significant and diverse population of heritage speakers of various languages, particularly Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, and various forms of Chinese.
- Over 90% of potential customers in countries like China, Japan, and Russia do not speak English. We need to learn to communicate with them.
Though the report addresses the employment needs in Oregon, employers in every state and in all fields need employees with international experience and second language competence, for example:
- Education–bilingual classrooms
- High tech–computers and electronics
- Machinery manufacturing
- Agricultural industries
- Service industries
- Public service
- Social services
- Law enforcement
- Health and medical fields
A major question many WOU students and their parents ask is, “How can we finance a study abroad program or international internship when the cost of living is increasing, tuition is higher, and the U.S. dollar worth less?”
All of these are legitimate concerns, but with careful and early planning an international experience is possible. In addition:
- Most forms of financial aid apply to study abroad and international internships.
- There are a number of scholarships, such as the Gilman International Scholarship Program and the National Security Education Program Scholarship, that are specifically for study abroad and international internships.
- WOU has short term as well as year long programs, and students can choose a program that fits their needs and their budget.
- Students may have to give up some things they enjoy to save for this experience, but they will be investing in their career and in their future earning power.
- While abroad, your son or daughter remains a WOU student earning WOU credit and continues to move toward graduation. Most credits will apply to the major, minor, general education requirements, or electives. Early planning is essential so students can maximize the credits earned abroad and use them where they are most needed.
WOU offers study abroad programs in twenty-five countries and 50 locations within those counties.
International internships are available in 300 locations throughout the world and in most career areas: arts and culture, business and trade, government agencies, health and social services, medical fields, international studies, non-profit and development organizations, teaching and education, and tourism and hospitality.
Through an international experience your son or daughter will learn to communicate in and understand the culture of another country and will develop the cultural sensitivity and tolerance that are essential for success in today’s world and workplace.
My staff and I are delighted to welcome your sons and daughters to Western Oregon University, and we look forward to working with them.