Study Abroad and Volunteering with Local Organizations
International studies majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad. The benefits of study abroad are many, and are of particular importance for majors in this field. Some of the benefits of study abroad include:
- a working knowledge of the language spoken in the host country
- a deeper understanding of that country’s culture and history
- the ability to function successfully in a different environment
- courses that fit the requirements of the international studies major
These skills do more than just make a student ‘well-rounded.’ They are often considered valuable skills for careers in international studies. For example, a part of the State Department’s Foreign Service Officer Test directly inquires about an applicant’s experiences abroad and the cultural/linguistic skills they developed while in country. Graduate schools also often recommend or require study abroad experiences for entry to programs with an international aspect.
Recent international studies majors have participated in a variety of programs in countries including Argentina, Belgium, Botswana, Chile, Cuba, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, South Africa and Spain.
International studies majors should also consider programs that provide language training and funding such as the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship and the Boren Scholarship. These programs provide funding to study ‘critical languages’ such as Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, and the like.
- Critical Language Scholarship: http://clscholarship.org/
- Boren Scholarship: http://www.borenawards.org/
For more information on study abroad, visit UST’s International Education Center’s website.
However, it is not strictly necessary to gain international experience abroad. The Twin Cities provides many volunteering opportunities with an international aspect. When a student accumulates significant experience working with an international community near home, they develop many of the skills listed above. They are also likely to accumulate skills that are relevant to the functioning of a non-governmental organization; these include assisting in charitable efforts, organizing, communicating, and even budgeting for the organization’s activities. This type of experience can be argued to be similar to that of study abroad and can be particularly relevant for students who hope to pursue careers in the non-governmental organization (NGO) field.
A Students Study Abroad Experience
"Egypt defied my expectations for study abroad. Cairo itself is a modern and developed city but has donkeys in the street, it has vast arrays of night clubs open on Thursday nights but shuts down on Friday mornings for Muslim noon prayers, it has some of the richest men in the world but houses vast slums around its suburbs. All in all, it is what Study Abroad is for in college, to give you something different and let you digest it not only in the classroom but in the streets, the trains, and in this case, on some camels."
- Clare Naughton, International Studies Student