“Before this program I had never left the country and therefore had never considered a career abroad.  Obtaining my passport and traveling abroad for just three weeks has opened my eyes to the possibility of relocating for work and living internationally.  Living as a true Londoner for this short time has also given me the self-confidence to consider this option knowing now that I have this experience under my belt if I were to do it again. ~ Olivia Hyman, student participant in Anthony Klotz’s London program.

Attending college comes with many ‘firsts,’ from first time living away from home to first time managing your own academic schedule to first internship. But for students willing to go even further, both literally and metaphorically, there are the ‘firsts’ of a study abroad program. Whether it’s a first international plane trip or the first time living in a country where English is not the dominant language, the challenges and rewards of studying abroad are manifold. And for Oregon State students, there are literally hundreds of opportunities.

The Office of Global Opportunities gives Oregon State students access to nearly 200 programs in 70 different countries. Options range from faculty-led programs to university exchanges, departmental programs to international internships. Some students focus on research, others attend programs with partner organizations where they participate alongside students from other universities. Some live in small town, others in large metropolitan areas, there’s even a chance for shipboard adventures.

“In 2017-2018, 660 OSU students participated in international opportunities including study abroad, international internships, and faculty-led programs,” said Caine Francis, director of the Office of Global Opportunities. “All of these program types are administered by the Office of Global Opportunities for students at OSU. “

College of Business associate professor Anthony Klotz leads a three-week course on cross-cultural management and leadership in London each summer. He and his wife, Michelle Klotz, who works in Faculty Affairs at Oregon State, have been organizing the course since 2014. Students considering their own global careers can study the effects of globalization and cross-cultural differences on management, and how to successfully navigate differences. During the trip they visit multinational organizations, attend guest lectures by business leaders, and experience life in one of the world’s busiest cities. The course is a partnership between the College of Business and INTO.

The first year, Klotz said, it was a struggle to get 10 students signed up to participate in the program. This year, they took 20 students and had more on a wait list. They’ve also made the program shorter, but more thorough.

“We have gotten much better at incorporating deeply engaging experiences into the trip, Klotz said. “For example, this year, the students had two day-long business visits during which they had to help the organizations solve actual business problems, alongside business professionals from around the world. So, it’s a much more immersive experience than it was at the beginning.”

Francis said that faculty-led study abroad programs account for almost half the programs that students participate in, and the rest are facilitated in some fashion by OSU’s Office of Global Opportunities. A team from OSU GO supports faculty in the process of brainstorming and creating their own study-abroad trips, offering advice on best practices, risk mitigation and engaged learning abroad.

Two years ago, Klotz’s London trip coincidentally took place at the same time as the critical Brexit vote. This gave students the opportunity to ask questions about the vote’s impact in real time with business leaders. This year, the students were able to see the impact of the vote’s fallout.

“There is definitely tension between those who want to get on with it, and those who would like another vote,” Klotz said. “The students also pick up on the parallels between the divisiveness of the Brexit issue and some of the divisiveness in our own politics in the US. Also, in general, the Brits are very knowledgeable about what’s going on in their politics, and that often impresses the students.”

When Klotz was an undergrad, he participated in a short-term study abroad program focused on business in Mexico. It was his first time out of the country, and the experience had a profound impact on him.

“I realized that to really understand a place, I needed to go for myself, and not take other peoples’ word about what a place is like.”

Francis said the hardest part for students is trying to figure out when to actually participate in a study-abroad trip during their time in college.

“Many factors go into choosing when to go abroad, especially knowing when in a degree program education abroad may fit,” Francis said. “When a particular degree program has flexibility and what courses are available abroad requires a collaboration between the student, OSU GO, and the academic advisor. The best way to ensure fitting in international experience is to start planning early.”

Klotz said not to underestimate the importance of pushing a student outside their comfort zone, which is precisely what studying abroad can do. Not only do students learn what it might be like to live abroad, but it gives them more empathy for foreign students living in the United States. And it gives them confidence that they can succeed in situations which were at first a little scary.

“Many of the greatest adventures in life are begun with some reluctance, so use study abroad as an opportunity to practice pushing through those hesitancies, embracing the uncertainty, and becoming a citizen of the world,” he said.

Francis agrees.

Research on education abroad outcomes shows that first and second year retention rates for students who study abroad are higher than students who do not,” he said. “Students who study abroad are more likely to complete their degrees than students who do not and skills gained while studying abroad are the same skills employers value; employers recognize the importance of cross-cultural understanding in an increasingly global economic environment.”

This trip has affected my future plans by making me more open to international business opportunities. Living and working abroad is something that I have always thought about, however being here and seeing it in person has allowed me to see what it would more realistically look like. If an opportunity comes my way that allows me to travel and see parts of the world that I may not be familiar with, I would take it in a heartbeat.

~Dylan Hamilton, OSU study-abroad participant.

(story by Theresa Hogue)