The Return of the American Abroad; Students Lead America Back to the World Community

PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 16 /PRNewswire/ — In the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001, high school and college students from across the United States have reacted to the fear of terrorist attack, a plummeting dollar and America’s tarnished world image in a way that few observers would have predicted: they have flooded study abroad programs with applications.

At a time when many believe that Americans have turned their backs to the world, students are traveling, studying, and volunteering overseas in growing numbers. During the 2002/03 academic year, the increase in the number of American students receiving credit for study abroad programs almost doubled, from 4.4% to 8.5%(1). While the popularity of overseas travel undoubtedly remains based in the timeless desire to “see the world” and break in freshly minted passports, increasing numbers of students and teachers seem to be motivated, at least partially, by a newfound appreciation for the importance of foreign language, cultural exchange and learning based on first-hand experience.

David Allen is the Executive Director of the Brighton Foundation, a non- profit organization that provides international study programs for high school and university groups. Allen, who has worked with American high school students overseas for more than a decade, agrees that the study abroad phenomenon has to be considered separately from the overall rebound in international tourist travel. “Like most things,” Allen notes, “travel programs for young people are changing after the attacks of September 11th. Students have become increasingly aware that what happens in the U.S. is part of a global story, and they are looking to us for more than experience filtered through the windows of a tour bus.”

As a result, organizations like the Brighton Foundation are developing a new breed of international study opportunities for high school students that bear little resemblance to the class trip to Europe most of us are familiar with. The time-tested formula of tour buses, hotels and postcard moments is giving way to summer programs for high school students modeled after university junior-year abroad programs that combine study, cultural workshops, faculty mentoring and regular interaction with local students. Brighton’s current study abroad destinations include Spain, Costa Rica, France and Italy, with options ranging from language immersion to specialized programs like soccer and culinary arts.

Micheal Dale, a French teacher at the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, NY who directs summer programs for Brighton in France, likes the fact that students have broader goals in mind as they consider their summer travel options. “These students are normal, healthy teenagers,” Dale notes. “They still want to have fun and explore the world, but they’re also increasingly sophisticated and want more from their summer than a four-country travel tour. They are motivated to explore independently and develop fluency in foreign languages. They’re also very cognizant of the fact that college applications are just around the corner, and that selective schools are looking for evidence of a lively curiosity, intellectual maturity, and engagement with other cultures. When my students return home from Europe, they haven’t just

visited another country; they’ve integrated another culture and language into their life story, and that kind of experience stands out.”

For more information about summer Study Abroad, contact Brighton at 800.795.2985, or visit http://www.brightonedge.org/.

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