Saturday, November 17, 2007

See Ya' Later Alligator

I'll See You an American and Raise You Three Foreigners

International study is a two way street. Nearly a quarter-million Americans study abroad. Despite difficulties with the language, most of those who cross the Atlantic River (it used to be an ocean, but as the world shrinks it has become a river) study in England. Italy, Spain, and France follow in that order for the countries with the most expatriate American study buddies. Nearly 10,000 American eds and coeds have opted to say "AdiĆ³s, USA" in favor of study in Mexico.

While 225,000 outbound midnight oil burners might seem like a lot the number pales in comparison with the nearly 600,000 who beat a path to the US to study. But unlike the destinations of the outgoing scholars, the most representatives of incoming hail from India, China, and Korea in that order. While most Americans prefer to walk the ivy covered paths of academia in Europe, Asians represent 59% of foreign bookworms in the US.

As Americans we have the pompous attitude that everything American is better than anything non-American so we can understand why students from other countries would like to come here to study and in many cases stay after their studies are completed. The most popular field of study for the unwashed masses of incoming is Business followed by Engineering. Most foreign students study in California, New York, or Texas. It is easy to understand that a lack of opportunities for post-secondary education in many foreign countries would encourage students to study in the US. Business and Engineering programs abound in American colleges and universities as well. And the opportunity to become more proficient in English is a side benefit for non-native English speakers.

But why do so many Americans choose to study abroad? Romance and status are certainly two reasons, and in many cases an opportunity to study a second language, although many programs abroad are taught in English. If a person who has mastered two languages is bilingual and one with three languages is tri-lingual, what is a person called who speaks only one language? American.

Many professions are difficult to enter in the US. Medicine, Pharmacy, and other areas of study which are limited in the number of seats available often send American students abroad to study. There are advantages: study abroad is often less expensive, learning includes language (those who study in Latin America and become proficient in Spanish are especially valuable upon their return), gaining an international perspective and a quality education in a highly regraded field of study are all advantages.

Disadvantages of study abroad can include health and legal issues (Americans abroad do not enjoy the same legal rights as do foreigners in the US), and becoming licensed in the field of choice after returning home with a foreign degree. On balance, however, study abroad is an experience that more Americans should try. Hasta la vista, baby.

Dr. Forgot

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