Many people living in the U.S. aspire to enjoying a truly international experience, and The Volante of the University of South Dakota notes that numerous cultural exchange programs are available to help fulfill this goal.
Universities themselves have put a growing emphasis on studying and working overseas. Study abroad programs which were once relatively uncommon are now some of the busiest offices in universities across the country. For students whose schools don't offer international experience, cultural exchange organizations are often a valid alternative to traditional academic programs.
"More and more employers are looking for people with international experience," Kathy Walden, a representative from USD's Institute for Study Abroad, told The Volante. "Students can use financial aid to pay for it and usually they have the time to get away - most students don't have full-time jobs or other commitments."
Students also have a variety of options available to them, from traditional study abroad programs to opportunities to teach English abroad.
"Students need to look at all their options and ask questions," Walden added. "Not everyone wants the same things from the experience."
Experiences abroad have changed significantly in recent years, Kate Wozniak wrote for The Kansas City Star. The study abroad and exchange coordinator at the University of Missouri, Kansas City's International Academic Programs, Wozniak points out that the importance of cultural exposure has grown dramatically.
In the past, people went abroad mostly for personal enrichment, and cultural exchange programs still provide that sense of growth. But now more and more employers expect that recent graduates will have experience abroad.
"We're all going to be in international business in the future, no matter what your career is," Gillispie explained. "More and more businesses are conducted across borders. Students will be more comfortable with it if they gain more experiences now."
But Wozniak explains that it takes more than just sightseeing to gain the necessary international exposure. Taking the time to become completely immersed in a different culture provides the kind of empathy that travel alone cannot really convey. She notes a USA Today piece from travel writer Rick Steves that argues sending young people from the U.S. abroad for an extended period is the only way to build real relationships with the rest of the world.
"If we want a new generation of leaders and innovators who can be effective in an ever more globalized world, sending our students overseas is not a luxury," Steve's wrote. "It's a necessity."