At the end of October, education leaders, government and business leaders, journalists, and others in the field of international education gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 2016 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad - a conference that offers space for industry leaders to explore ideas for expanding study abroad participation, share best practices, and work together towards the goal of doubling study abroad participation by 2020. Among the attendees was CIEE Study Abroad Alum Hannah Smalley, who was chosen to speak as a Generation Study Abroad Voice at the Summit.
Hannah says of the experience:
"Studying abroad was never a question for me; I always knew it was going to be part of my college experience. My biggest unknowns were where to go, and if I would decide to go for a year or just the semester. Once at college, I felt that by going abroad for a semester I was in the norm, as the majority of my friends were headed out to their respective countries either the semester before me or at the same time. I had no idea the magnitude of that misconception until the opening reception of the 2016 IIE Summit on Generation Study Abroad, where I learned that less than 10% of enrolled American college students go abroad! My complete and utter shock to learning that percentage has not faded, but it gives me confidence knowing that the amazing speakers I heard, and leaders I met, are working tirelessly to shift the needle.
"The Summit was both my first study abroad conference, as well as my first time on a panel, and I couldn’t have hoped for a more supportive, progressive, and exciting experience. Although I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference, every session and event I went to showed study abroad from a different perspective, tried to identify a different challenge, and then tried to address it; it was clear that none of the panelists were okay to rest on their laurels - every one of them wanted to find a way to get more students engaged and abroad. The excitement generated from each topic was palatable, and it made me excited to be more engaged in the future of study abroad in a way that I had never considered. The world is becoming increasingly smaller and more connected, and though it may seem like the internet has made it possible to participate effectively in an international world, without having been immersed in a culture completely different to your own, it simply isn’t possible to be that global player the world needs.
"Something I mentioned on my panel, that I hadn’t given much thought to beforehand, is that I didn’t truly understand what I had learned while abroad when I first returned to the U.S. It is only years later, after being immersed in post-graduation life, that I have come to appreciate the lessons I learned and the long-term impact that living in Ghana had on me. If this conference, and my fellow panelists, reinforced one thing, it’s that going abroad changes you; no matter where you go or what career you end up pursuing, you will be a better employee, co-worker, and leader for having had to push your boundaries and learn to adapt while abroad."