The length of time students study overseas has no significant impact on whether they become globally engaged later in life, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, a conclusion that is sure to add fuel to the already fiery debate over the efficacy of increasingly popular short-term study-abroad programs.
The findings of the Study Abroad for Global Engagement project, presented here on Thursday at the annual conference of the Forum on Education Abroad, suggest that students who go overseas for a short period of time, four weeks or less, are just as likely as those who study abroad for several months or even a year to be globally engaged.
“It’s both exciting and disappointing,” said Gerald W. Fry, a professor of international-development education at Minnesota and one of the study’s principal investigators. “On one hand, you’d hope that studying in a country for a long period of time would be particularly meaningful.” On the other, he said, the study’s findings suggest that “if it’s done right, if it’s done with intensity of learning, a short-term program can have impact.”
The Minnesota study, which surveyed nearly 6,400 graduates of 22 colleges who had studied overseas during the last five decades, sought to learn the ways in which those individuals had become globally engaged and the degree to which that engagement could be attributed to having studied abroad. The researchers defined engagement in several ways, including volunteerism and philanthropy, involvement in international and domestic political issues, and leadership in organizations that benefit the community and society. [Click here to read the full story. Subscription only.]