Center for Engaging the World
The record number of American students studying abroad is directly reflected in the record number of students studying abroad this summer from Westminster College in Fulton, MO.
According to Open Doors 2012, a recent study by the Institute of International Education, over 273,000 American students in the 2010-2011 academic year studied abroad, representing an all-time high. About 14% of all American students study abroad at some time during their undergraduate years.
Westminster College is also seeing a record number this summer with 53 students headed to 12 different destinations as well as the multi-country Semester at Sea program. A record number of faculty and students at Westminster are participating in summer travel courses as well. Four different summer courses are being offered by seven faculty members with 40 students participating.
"The increasingly interconnected global world we live in today demands that our students grow academically and personally in ways that can't happen if they remain on our campus," says Dr. Kurt Jefferson, Executive Director of the Center for Engaging the World. "By studying abroad, Westminster students are introduced to new ideas, new people, new ways of living and speaking and a new way of looking at the world. These experiences and skills will prove invaluable to the future leaders of America."
Biology Professors Mike Amspoker and Jeff Mayne flew out May 13 for Belize with 21 students to study the flora, fauna, history, culture and geography of Belize.
Transnational and International Studies Professor Kurt Jefferson and Asian Studies and Transnational Studies Professor Henry Landry took six students to China and Mongolia from May 31-June 14. This group visited Beijing Union University and Luhe International Center, a high school in China, as well as the University of Humanities in Mongolia. They saw the ancient sites of both countries and took a 25-hour train trip across the Gobi desert in southern Mongolia traveling back into China.
According to one of the students on this China excursion, David McDermott, a junior from Grubville, MO, who has a double major in transnational studies and political science, the class spent a semester studying Chinese history and culture before their trip and finished the class with a major research presentation such as his on the Forbidden City. For McDermott, this study abroad is the precursor to a semester studying in China this fall. McDermott's previous interaction at Westminster College with Chinese faculty at Beijing Union University through Skype and the Chinese group of professors and students who visited campus last summer led him to be invited for the fall semester.
"My objective for these two weeks studying abroad was to meet and get to know the Chinese people-particularly those outside of Beijing in the more underdeveloped areas," says McDermott. "I want to begin to understand the distinct differences between the American mentality and the Chinese mentality. It will be important to my future career goals to understand the differences."
Transnational Studies Professor Jeremy Straughn and History Professor Sam Goodfellow left May 18 with 11 students to spend ten days in Berlin. They studied the historical, cultural, social and political development of Germany's capital and focus on the German Democratic Republic and its relationship with the West German government and life in the city after German reunification.
In addition, Dr.Alan Goldin, Professor of Environmental Sciences and Geology, left May 12 for two weeks with five students to the American Southwest to study geological formations and environmental aspects of life in that region. They visited national parks in Utah and California, including Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Yosemite National Park and Death Valley National Park.
"As part of our mission to develop leaders in a global community, we encourage all our students to study abroad so they will have that edge going into the job market," says Westminster President Dr. George B. Forsythe. "Acquiring advanced language skills and proficiency in a second language, gaining an expanded view of the world and developing the cultural sensitivity our students gain for study abroad makes them more attractive to prospective employers."
A 2012 study by the Journal of Applied Psychology shows students who live and study in foreign countries develop higher creative thinking skills.