Some say the birth of study abroad came with new American families sending their daughters to Europe to become cultured and sophisticated. Not unlike a finishing school where girls learned to be ladies and the etiquette of society. However, the first study abroad program is often accredited to the University of Delaware.

In the 1920’s a World War I veteran and French professor took students to France for their junior year. This program was then replicated by other institutions. As you can imagine, closely analyzing international relations in a post-war environment was a prominent theme in study abroad.

Last year, over 270,000 U.S. students studied abroad. This may seem like a lot, but it is only about 1% of all undergraduate students. This is not enough to significantly change the worldview of our students, or the World’s view of the U.S. Study abroad is meant to increase cultural understanding, diplomacy and international relations.

In the past few years study abroad initiatives have made it to the White House. The Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act, advocates for study abroad and international exchange. Their goal is to send 1 million undergraduate students abroad each school year, for those students to be going to a diverse range of locations and for the students to accurately represent the undergraduate population in the US.

In 2011, Barack and Michelle Obama have been promoting initiatives such as 100,000 Strong in both China and the United States. On March 28th, the U.S. Department of State posted this blog: Study Abroad Can Change Your Life – And Your Country. This blog was reiterating the importance of study abroad, as it pertains to strengthening U.S. foreign relations and better preparing our students to be successful in our globalized world.

“Educational exchange is not just a nice thing to do; it’s the absolutely necessary thing to do.” ~ Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli

We know the importance of study abroad. But how can we articulate this to those who don’t value study abroad? Everyone who has had a meaningful international experience should be an avid advocate of study abroad. Talk to your peers and your students about the kinds of opportunities they have or get involved in NAFSA Advocacy Day!

I’m glad that we have the White House on board, now it’s up to us to be good advocates and creative in the opportunities that we offer abroad to ensure that this privilege is extended to a greater population of U.S. students.

Barcelona SAE is doing our part by providing the most affordable programs in Barcelona. Students can choose to study abroad for a summer, semester or year. We also provide internship experience for those wanting to gain work experience abroad.

We do our best to offer the best cultural programming that maximizes students engagement abroad and facilitates cultural awareness. This is an exciting time in study abroad and we look forward to these government initiatives being fulfilled. Study abroad experiences are truly life changing, if you haven’t already had one, we hope you plan your time abroad soon.