SPECIAL REPORT: @WhiteHouse and #StudyAbroadBecause #WHTravelBloggers

SPECIAL REPORT: @WhiteHouse and #StudyAbroadBecause #WHTravelBloggers

White House Travel Blogger Summit

What I learned at the White House Travel Blogger Summit this week…!

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the White House invited over 100 social media influencers in travel and global citizenship to Washington, D.C. to discuss study abroad programs for students. Puzzled about the high level concern? Statistics show that our country is lacking in global ambassadors abroad, and this effects our global economic competitiveness and matters of global security.

Did you know that from 2012-2013 just under 300,000 U.S. students studied abroad for university credit?

It sounds like a big number, right? Well, according to Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State, that number accounts for just 1.5% of the population of 20 million students enrolled during that same time period. Just 1.5%. Shocking, right? Yet, nearly 50% of students indicate that they are interested in studying abroad when they first enter university. So, why is traveling abroad as a student actually a rarity?

Some barriers to taking the international leap can be finances (that was my case!), no flexibility to take courses outside the university in your major, parental concerns, roommate concerns, intimidation of living in a foreign country and lack of information about programs and scholarships.

These were the type of issues that we discussed with top U.S. government officials at the White House Travel Blogger Summit this week. In fact, the White House has announced the launch of a U.S. study abroad office within the next 6 months, as well as, the first-ever Virtual Study Abroad Fair, to be held on February 25, 2015. The new office will help make it easier for more students, regardless of sex, race or socioeconomic status to make studying abroad a reality. And perhaps, we, at World Moms Blog can help with the parental concern part. 😉 (Stay tuned to the blog for advice for parents!)

Why is the U.S. State Department pushing the value of an international component of education?

Our next generation of leaders must have experience as global citizens to be able to “operate within the global political and economic landscape of the 21st century”, according to Evans. An increase of Americans traveling, studying, working and volunteering abroad also helps to break false American stereotypes.

Making Study Abroad Affordable…

Affording to study abroad is not a reality for many American students, which limits the pool of our student ambassadors, limiting the world’s picture of who the American student is. The diversity of American students has not been properly represented to the world with 76% of study abroad students in the 2012-2013 academic year being white, 5% African American, 8% Hispanic, 7% Asian/Pacific Islander, and less than 1% Native American, as per Ryan.

In my own student experience, I spent a summer abroad in Japan in high school thanks to a local scholarship, when I got to college the door to study abroad was closed to me. I was receiving need-based financial aid at a private university consisting of both, Federal aid and aid from my university’s scholarship fund.  However the private funds only applied to my education at the university, not abroad. So, I was disappointingly priced out.

This week I had the opportunity to speak with Evan Ryan one-on-one just before she spoke at the White House Travel Bloggers conference, and when I told her my story, she told me about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. This scholarship aims to target the population of U.S. students underrepresented in study abroad programs and sends about 2,000 kids abroad to study annually. To be considered for the scholarship, a U.S. student must be receiving need-based financial aid, such as an US Pell Grant or US Stafford Loan (two types of government subsidized need-based university financial aid).

The challenge? Over 9,000 students apply for the Gilman scholarship each year, but only 2,000 can go. It would be great for more students on need-based financial aid to have a global education experience, and the launch of the new U.S. office of study abroad plans to work toward just that goal — that study abroad is for everyone.

The Economic and Political Landscape is Changing and Friendship Aids Navigation

With greater access to transportation and technology in this day and age, the economic and political landscape is changing. There will continue to be more business and government roles that will require candidates who have foreign language skills and global experience. And, perhaps, the most important and overlooked landscape? Friendship.

Having friends around the world is interesting, fun and mind opening, as we have been learning for the past 4 years, here, at World Moms Blog. Being able to put ourselves in our foreign neighbors’ shoes to better understand what their lives are like makes us more understanding global citizens, and vice versa.

One of my most interesting moments in blog friendship was when one of our international contributors that I’ve been working with here over the years once said to me, “I had no idea Americans could be as understanding as you.” It took me by surprise! But then I realized where her statement was coming from — she was getting to know my country in a more personal way through our friendship, just as I was getting to know hers. Social interaction is key to global citizenship and breaking stereotypes.

Just by increasing the human interaction between people of different countries and cultures, I really believe that her sentence can be replaced with any nationality. The key is getting to know each other and realizing that what it is to be a good human prevails behind borders, burkas, playing helmets, Mardi Gras masks, kilts, saris, newspaper headlines and beyond. We just have to get to know one another, human to human, and then we can better navigate the changing global landscapes…together.

Want to know more about the White House Travel Blogger Summit?  Watch the video here:

“When we study together and we learn together; we work together and we prosper together.” — President Barack Obama May 3, 2013 **Stay tuned for more about the White House Travel Bloggers Summit on World Moms Blog — we have even more to say about our tour of the White House, experience at the National Press Corp., Newseum tour and dinner sponsored by Turkish Airlines and additional speakers on global citizenship and travel abroad!

Patent
pending, Hyperactivate

This is an original post by founder, Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA, to World Moms Blog. 

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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STUDY ABROAD: Japan

STUDY ABROAD: Japan

Japan 1994

The author with her Japanese host family,
Oshogatsu (New Year’s Day), 1994

When I was eight years old, my mom moved from our home, outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to start a new life for herself in Los Angeles, California.

Growing up on the East Coast of the US, in the 1970’s, I had been exposed to only small pockets of Asian, immigrant populations; I knew nothing of the large, well-established Asian populations out on the West Coast.

On one of my first trips out to visit, my mom took me to an area of Los Angeles called Little Tokyo. As its name infers, it was a predominantly Japanese neighborhood and wandering around its streets made me feel like I had been transported to a different land.

I can’t remember if I had ever had sushi before my visit but certainly I had never experienced sushi in as authentic a setting as the restaurant she took me to that day.

The entrance involved crossing a wooden bridge over a small koi pond. There were stone lanterns and bonsai trees. the waitresses were all clad in kimono and the sushi arrived at our table on small wooden planks. I was mesmerized. For me, it was love at first…bite.

This experience had such an impact on me that, from that day on, I was enthralled by anything Japanese. I wanted to know everything I could about the country, culture and its people.

The Japanese were the great inventors of all things prominent in my childish memory: Iron Man, Godzilla, Kero-Kero Keroppi, Hello Kitty, my first Walkman. What a genius tribe they must be!

The rise of my curiosity coincided perfectly with the rise of the Japanese economy. Access to their food, products and even language grew increasingly accessible.

When I was in high school, a small group of students expressed their desire to study Japanese, a language option not yet offered at my school. Fortunately for us, since our school was less than an hour from Yale University—one of the US’s leading colleges—we petitioned for and received permission to get transportation to Yale one evening a week, so we could take an introductory-level Japanese language class there.

When I began researching colleges the following year, I selected only those with an established Japanese language program and study abroad opportunities.

I ended up at a small, liberal arts college in Tennessee with a strong International Studies department. I enrolled in every Japanese class they offered. In my sophomore year, I applied for and was accepted into my school’s Japanese exchange program with our sister university in Osaka, Japan.

At the end of my sophomore year, when all students had to declare their majors, I–along with one other student–petitioned for and was granted permission to develop the school’s first degree track in Japanese Studies. It seemed an auspicious plan, considering the Japanese purchase of the iconic, US landmark, Rockefeller Center, earlier that same year.

I spent my entire junior year of college abroad, studying at a Japanese university, living with two separate Japanese families and absorbing as much of the country and culture as possible for a college-aged kid.

I turned 21 there, a major American coming-of-age. I participated on Japanese sports teams, took painting and pottery classes, studied the culture through the fascinating lens of manga (Japanese comics), dated only Japanese men and immersed myself in the pursuit of understanding all things Japanese.

Japan 1994_1

The author and her host sister dressed in kimono

My study abroad experience had an unbelievable impact on my life. It launched my passion and insatiable hunger for travel and Asia, beyond Japan.

I gained greater independence, broadened my global perspectives, forged life-long friendships, developed cultural empathy and experienced life as a minority; a gaijin (outsider) in a homogeneous land.

 

I consider my study abroad experience the foundation of the life I built upon it. I know that many of us here at World Moms Blog also have had experiences living and studying abroad; it is one of the many ties that bind us. We are global citizens striving to raise our own children in an increasingly globalized world.

But, as you will learn later today from World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, here in the US, accessibility to and enthusiasm for studying abroad are not as prevalent as many of us may think.

So what’s it like in your country? Are study abroad programs prolific on your college campuses? Did you benefit from studying abroad? Tell us about what the experience means to you.

And stay tuned later today for Jen’s post on Studying Abroad and how the White House is playing a part…

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two rising, global citizens, Kyla P’an.

The pictures used in this post are credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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