In 2000, researchers began an ambitious effort to document the academic outcomes of study abroad across the 35-institution University System of Georgia. Ten years later, they’ve found that students who study abroad have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, higher graduation rates, and improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups. They’ve also found that studying abroad helps, rather than hinders, academic performance of at-risk students.
“The skeptics of study abroad have always made the argument that study abroad is a distraction from the business of getting educated, so you can enter the economy and become a contributing member of society,” said Don Rubin, professor emeritus of speech communication and language education at the University of Georgia and research director for GLOSSARI — the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative. “I think if there’s one take-home message from this research as a whole it is that study abroad does not undermine educational outcomes, it doesn’t undermine graduation rate, it doesn’t undermine final semester GPA. It’s not a distraction.
“At worst, it can have relatively little impact on some student’ educational careers. And at best it enhances the progress toward degree. It enhances the quality of learning as reflected in things like GPA.”