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Students Asked How They Planned to Use Study Abroad in Career Plans

By Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA
Manager of University Relations
Athena Study Abroad

At the 2018 Career Integration Education Abroad Conference, sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Learning Abroad Center and CET and held in Washington, D.C., Ilana Waldman (Arizona State University) and Kerry O’Brien (University of Maryland) presented, “Beyond internships: Integrating Career Readiness into Faculty-Led Programs.” Waldman and O’Brien started their presentation with the necessary background of defining global competence learning outcomes, and adopting definitions of career readiness and competencies from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. They pointed out that ASU sought, among other goals, “programs that leverage corporate partnerships” and “feature internship/research/service-learning,” while Maryland sought, among other goals, to “incorporate experiential learning (e.g., project-based learning, field work, service-learning, and civic engagement).” Another ASU and Maryland goal, of course, was planning and conducting career-related assessment of the study abroad experiences. 

Students who participated in ASU’s Summer 2017 program, “Film, Culture and Lord of the Rings” were asked, “What were your reasons or goals for studying abroad? Please check all that apply” with 11 different possible answers. The answers took into account the wide variety of reasons why students study abroad and that students rarely do it for only one reason. One suggestion for future research would be asking students the same question before and after their study abroad to find out whether answers have changed. (The survey also had a low sample size [11], with only five participants.) ASU’s 2017 program, “Counter Terrorism in Israel,” had may more participants (24), but only 10 answered the survey. These same 15 respondents (five from “Lord of the Rings” and 10 from “Counter Terrorism”) also answered, “How do you plan on using your study abroad experience to help with career planning?” and were given four answer choices and could check any or all.

At Maryland, 248 students who participated in official short-term Winter or Spring Break 2018 programs answered the question, “How will you use your experience on this study abroad program in your career planning? Please check all that apply,” with five provided answers, one of which was “I am not sure,” plus the ability to write in something for “other” (which received 11 comments). It received a significant number of responses (but response rate is not noted), and it is important that “I am not sure” and “other” were included to account for a wide variety of student experiences and plans.

A suggestion for all of these survey questions at both universities would be asking students to rank their answers and/or indicate magnitude rather than only yes or no. A second suggestion would be to give half the students answer choices (aided response) and half the students an open-ended question (unaided response) and compare results.

Over a period of years, a body of data gathered, consistently using the same questions and answers, from students experiencing a wide variety of study abroad programs should be useful even with small samples each year from individual programs.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Dane Claussen presented, “Study Abroad and Employment: A Proposed Research Agenda,” on October 26, at the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PACIE) conference in State College, PA.

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