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A blog about the experience and ideas of One World Youth Project.

Only 1% of U.S. College Students Study Abroad: What This Means

Vivian Ojo is the Thought Leadership Fellow of One World Youth Project, assisting the curation of OWYP's active blog and social media engagement. Vivian Ojo is in the Georgetown School of Foreign Service (2014) pursuing a degree in Comparative Studies of Africa and South America.

I woke up this morning to an article about the Ecuadorian embassy protecting the Founder of wiki-leaks. I read with avid interest and did extensive research on the article -an article I would have hardly given a second glance about a year ago. As I tried to express to my friend what I thought was an extremely exciting and somewhat terrifying article, she could not understand my captivation with it. She reminded me that this scenario was just like the time that I ranted for days about the death of Lonely George the aged tortoise from the Galapagos Island.

It was then that it hit me. Ever since I returned from studying abroad in Ecuador, I had maintained a more than average interest in the film festivals, political events and even species extinctions that related to that nation. I even watched Manchester United football games with slightly more zest, keeping an eye on the Ecuadorian player Valencia, whose hometown I had visited while in Ecuador.

Over time I had adopted Ecuador as another home away from home. I had bonded with the very abstract yet personally meaningful subject that was ‘all things Ecuadorian’. It took me sometime to realize that you cannot live and learn somewhere without taking just a little bit of the place with you, adopting it in your character, opinions and even in your passions. When you study abroad you make a connection that personifies what previously seemed like unrelated statistics and distant media reports. Whether or not you enjoy, understand or even support everything about your host country the experience highlights the place on the world map and opens dialogue about the nations.

A place, cultural practice or issue you may never have considered now assumes a reality. The more of these connection you make the more global a citizen you become. Although I am inclined to converse with almost every Ecuadorian I meet here, the truth is that they are not all my friends and just because I have visited a nation does not mean I know everything about it and everyone from it. Nonetheless that which I do know and understand of its people, its flavors, its music and shortcomings, which puts me in a relationship with a completely different culture from mine.

This is the kind of relationship that cultivates global citizenship is the kind of relationship OWYP tries to provide, even for students who cannot afford to study abroad. The video below is of one of OWYP’s summer interns, Miranda Morrison, expressing her views on how only 1% of American university and college students study abroad, the ramifications of limiting this opportunity and her ideas for possible solutions.

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5 Responses to “Only 1% of U.S. College Students Study Abroad: What This Means”

  1. Hey guys, I am a fellow at OWYP and would love to know what you all think about what we've been doing.

  2. wow, amazing piece Viv. Reading through this brought back memories of my time abroad, especially "you cannot live and learn somewhere without taking just a little bit of the place with you, adopting it in your character, opinions and even in your passions." Just last week I met someone from Ireland & we spent an hour discussing things back going on there. I really do feel like all the places I spent time have shaped, even if just a little, the way I see things around me.

  3. Beautiful piece, Vivian.. really illustrates how you take a piece of place everywhere you go, and how that enriches your character. Looks like you are able to look at current events that seemingly don't directly affect you with a lot more empathy and a broadened global lens. Awesome video by Miranda as well — limitations and barriers to study abroad is a real disservice to our students and our emerging generation of leaders, an issue that we should be paying attention to.

  4. This is absolutely amazing! Reading about your experiences truly exemplifies the necessity for students to travel abroad in order to better understand the world and other cultures. I can totally relate to your experiences from my own study abroad opportunities, I think it is essential for students in this day and age to have these cross-cultural experiences in order to further their development and global understanding. Great piece!

  5. What an amazing imagination of the world: every citizen with multiple homes. It's a concept that has been extolled by some of out best thinkers. The whole discipline of anthropology relies on knowing others. Kurt Vonnegut would say, how else can we find the other members of our Karass but to travel outside our granfalloons?

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