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Report Shows Positive Effects of Study Abroad

July 20, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

As if you needed more reason to study abroad, a recent study looking at 10 years worth of data shows that students who take educational experiences overseas have higher graduation rates once they’re back on their campuses. Not surprisingly, the study also found that those students also have a greater appreciate of cultures outside of their own once they’re back from their time abroad, and see the world in the a broader context.

The project comes from the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative, or GLOSSARI. It looked at data from 35 institutions of higher education and more than 19,000 students across Georgia since 2000. Study abroad students were compared to a “control group” of nearly 18,000 students who matched those students studying abroad when it came to variables like socioeconomic status and where they were in their college careers, among other characteristics. Among the findings:

  • The six-year graduation rate for study abroad students was about 88.7 percent, compared to 83.4 percent for those in the control group.
  • The four-year graduation rate for study abroad students was 49.6 percent, compared to 42.1 percent for those in the control group.
  • Four-year graduation rates for African-American students who studied abroad were 31 percent higher than for those African-American students in the control group. (According to an article in Inside Higher Ed on the study, it is important to note that minorities are still underrepresented in study abroad programs; about 81.8 percent of American students studying abroad are white.)
  • GPAs were higher among those studying abroad as well. Those who went abroad had average cumulative GPAs of 3.30, compared to 3.06 among those in the control group.

This doesn’t mean your grades will automatically improve once you study abroad, or that you’ll get back on track to graduate on time if you head overseas for a while. But it may mean that even those students at risk of dropping out of college may benefit from study abroad.

Study abroad isn’t always painted in a positive light. Some critics say it’s a distraction from academics, and more of a vacation for college students than a learning experience. Sure, living in a foreign country for a semester or even just a summer probably has perks that have nothing to do with your job as a student. But there is value in the experience. You’ll be forced to become more independent and hone new skills, have the opportunity to learn a new language, and even give your resume a boost. Have you studied abroad? What would you say to college students considering going abroad?


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