Story originally in the Oregon Quarterly by Chloe Huckins.
International off-campus study is no longer a luxury for the few. With support from Global Education Oregon, more students than ever are gaining personal, professional, and academic benefits from studying abroad.
In a world where a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most entry-level professional positions, many college students are looking for other ways to distinguish themselves in the workforce. The most exciting—and some might argue, most rewarding—tactic is studying abroad.
International study has long been considered a culturally enriching experience. Today, while those traditional values remain true, the corporate world has begun to place new emphasis on the personal and social skills that international experience cultivates.
Bre Cruickshank, BA ’14, is an ethical fashion blogger and category information analyst at Nike, providing data support for the men’s sportswear category. During her junior year at the UO, she studied abroad in Angers, France, for five-and-a-half months.
“I had the biggest love affair of my life with France,” she says. By the time she left she had tasted a snail, become conversationally fluent in a new language, and formed the opinion that she was not going back to the United States for as long as possible. She landed a job in London at a startup called Urban Times, an online magazine featuring user-generated content. Her title was eco-fashion editor.
After three months in London and a few too many nights eating canned corn for dinner, Cruickshank returned to the US. She credits her time abroad with opening up the world in more ways than one; in addition to gaining a broader cultural perspective, it launched her into the world of ethical fashion and likely played a role in the job offer from Nike.
“There is so much we are capable of, if we were only able to recognize it and do more risky things. I don’t think I would have realized that if I hadn’t studied abroad,” she admits. “It was the push that I needed.”
Around 25 percent of UO undergraduates study abroad, which is a significantly higher percentage than found in most public universities. However, as GEO’s institutional relations manager Lisa Calevi points out, “There are real—not perceived—barriers to going abroad.” These obstacles manifest in terms of cost, curriculum, and culture. GEO continues to make strides toward building unique programs, attracting diverse student groups, and providing financial resources.
However, some things haven’t changed, including the department’s overall mission. “We want to create better citizens,” Poole says, explaining that in addition to gaining skills such as resilience, language fluency, and adaptability, those who can step outside of their own culture and look back often gain invaluable perspective.
Cruickshank powerfully articulates this phenomenon. “The best thing that people can do for themselves is to be uncomfortable. It’s when you are in those challenging, difficult, and uncomfortable situations that you change as a person and become better. I think comfort is death.”
Read the full story at Oregon Quarterly.