Last week, the Global Engagement Directorate at the National Security Council hosted a summit with 130 of the most influential travel bloggers and digital media outlets. The summit was an opportunity to discuss U.S. government initiatives and strategies for encouraging American students to study, volunteer, and work abroad. Participants heard from a host of senior policymakers, including:
Consistently at the forefront of trends in the industry, travel bloggers and digital media outlets innovate ways to communicate experiences with Millennials about international exploration. The summit aimed to take their work one step further. By transforming interest in travel into study, volunteer, and work opportunities, the Administration seeks to significantly increase the number and diversity of young people participating in educational, cultural, and professional experiences internationally. Fundamentally, study abroad is about making an investment in the most capable, connected, and competitive workforce in the world.
For the last six years, this Administration has focused on broadening the scope of the U.S. government’s engagement with citizens abroad. Efforts include the President’s signature Young African Leaders Initiative, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, 100,000 Strong in the Americas, and our latest project connecting Americans to youth in the Middle East, the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative.
Studying abroad is a critical component to deepening and broadening relationships with citizens overseas. Today, fewer than 10% of students take part in study abroad. In 2012 to 2013, the total number of U.S. students taking part in study abroad was under 300,000 -- only 1.5 percent of the almost 20 million American students enrolled in U.S. higher education programs.
To combat these trends, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced the creation of a U.S. Study Abroad Office. This new office will manage the Department’s study abroad scholarships and capacity building programs for American students and institutions, as well as play a leading role in promoting the benefits of study abroad to U.S. students and parents, faculty, and education administrators. It will provide resources that can help interested U.S. students navigate a complex process to study or intern abroad by offering scholarships, recommendations, and guidelines.
Last Tuesday's summit also featured remarks, presentations, and panels of experts on current efforts around studying, volunteering, and working abroad. Experts from National Geographic, iHeartMedia, Institute for International Education, George Mason University, Millennial Trains Project, Minerva Project, Travel Channel, and Yahoo Travel shared their ideas for increasing students’ international interest.
The summit sparked a dynamic conversation that went well beyond the White House. Having generated so much interest, the Administration will continue to engage with this group and others to build new partnerships and ensure that more young people have the opportunity to reach beyond our borders.
Shannon Green is the NSC Senior Director for Global Engagement.