Study Abroad with AIFS

May 2014  |  800.727.2437

International Perspectives

American Institute For Foreign Study

The AIFS Perspective

Supporting "Generation Study Abroad"

AIFS is proud to be part of the Institute of International Education’s "Generation Study Abroad" initiative. It is very exciting to see that over 300 institutions and organizations have signed on to support it and to actively work toward achieving its stated goals. Doubling the participation in study abroad over the next five years is a challenge that will not be easy by any means.

Those of us with a longer history in our field might acknowledge that it feels as if we have "been here before." In 1988 CIEE published Educating For Global Competence: The Report of the Advisory Council for International Education Exchange. In short, the report was premised on the belief that global interdependence required the need to dramatically improve the preparation of our students to meet the demands of a changing world. The report set a goal to increase student participation in study abroad to 10% by 1995, and to 20-25% by 2008. In 1990 NAFSA published a report of the National Task Force on Undergraduate Education Abroad titled A National Mandate for Education Abroad: Getting on With the Task, which echoed the need to achieve the goals set forth in the previous report.

I would urge colleagues to revisit these reports to review how the challenges faced at the time were described, as well as the suggestions for how the goals could be achieved. While some progress has been made, and perhaps some momentum generated, we fell far short of those goals. Many of the challenges addressed in these reports remain, and it can be argued that additional barriers have emerged.

Read more: Supporting "Generation Study Abroad"

In this Issue


The Rise of "Funemployment"


The Global Search for Education: Education and Skills


Employment: Skills vs. Degrees


New Publication: Campus Best Practices




News from Abroad: A Musical Homestay Match in Russia



Guest Contributor

Martin Tillman


Global Career Compass

The Rise of Funemployment

The Rise of "Funemployment"

U.S. Students Consider Option of a Post-Graduation Gap Year

This month, graduates of the Class of 2014 are heading out into the world of gainful employment – or at least some of them are. According to an article in the Times Higher Education, in today's sluggish job market, many graduates find themselves with undesirable (if any) job prospects; according to Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies, 36% of grads in recent years have taken jobs that do not require a college degree.

A small but growing number of U.S. students are choosing a different path, opting instead to spend a year pursuing travel or work unrelated to their studies, termed "funemployment." According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, this year 5.5% of graduates are taking this route; although this number is small, it's almost double the percentage of students with this goal just four years ago.

For students who can afford to remain unemployed or postpone entering graduate school, a structured alternative of work or service can pay dividends. However, "according to the Project on Student Debt, seven in 10 US students incur debt to pay tuition fees and other costs, which averages $29,400 (£17,800) and they must start repaying it within six to nine months of graduating," making taking a gap year prohibitively expensive.

The Global Search for Education: Education and Skills

Article: The Global Search for Education: Education and Skills

C. M. Rubin's Global Search for Education is an initiative that was "inspired by a group of young international students concerned about the relevance of their 21st century education to today's world." Interviewing over 170 world leaders in the fields of business, education, and government, Rubin is gathering the perspectives of these experts in order to create a dialogue about changes that need to be made in the education system. As she notes, "We know that education remains the most powerful tool for ending global poverty and ensuring long-term sustainable quality of life and economic progress. It affects all aspects of a modern society."

Relevant to the current dialogue concerning the "worth" of a college degree – and, by inference, the worthwhileness of any off-campus experience – Rubin shares this anecdote: "After a presentation I made last year, a successful businessman discussed with me his frustrations in finding qualified young adults to hire for his growing global empire. 'What are you looking for?' I asked. 'Character!' was his response. Beyond test scores and academic degrees, he placed significant importance on finding young adults with integrity, empathy, morals, adaptability, curiosity and a passion to learn, lead and collaborate." These are skills that go beyond the classroom, and study abroad is one way that college students can gain these sought-after traits.

Employment: Skills vs. Degrees

Employment: Skills vs. Degrees

According to a recent article in the Financial Review, employers hiring students in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, value specific types of skills and competencies when considering young talent – above considerations of the degree received by a candidate. This disconnect is apparent in this Gallup Poll, which found that "U.S. business leaders say the amount of knowledge the candidate has in a field, as well as applied skills, are more important factors than where a candidate attended school or what their college major was."

The Gallup poll points to a major finding: "Americans – who tend to rate the importance of where and what type of degree was attained higher than do business leaders – need to recognize that college alone is not enough. Getting a job and achieving long-term success in one's career may increasingly depend on demonstrating real value to employers through experience and targeted learning – and increasingly less on degrees, even if they are from prestigious universities."

This observation supports the contention of international educators who see the correlation between international experience and the type of critical skills and competencies that employers value. And it lends credibility to the need for more campuses to develop integrated advising practices to assist students in better articulating what they learned after returning to pursue their job search after an international experience.

Campus Best Practices

New Publication: Campus Best Practices: Supporting Education Abroad & Student Career Development

Written by Martin Tillman, this publication provides advisors in study abroad offices and their partners in career services with a practical guide to selected advising models and best program practices currently in place on a variety of campuses across the country. It showcases a continuum of campus models that reflect the diversity of advising practices in the U.S. including a sample of courses taught with the goal of providing students greater structure as they consider the career impact of their international education.

To submit a best practice model/document for inclusion on the AIFS website or to share feedback, please email

Download a PDF of Campus Best Practices



We here at AIFS are looking forward to seeing you in San Diego! Please stop by the AIFS booth (#1120), where you can:

  • Meet with AIFS representatives from our Stamford, London, and regional offices
  • Learn about new AIFS programs and initiatives
  • Discuss ways that AIFS can assist your school with customized, faculty-led programs
  • Learn about becoming an AIFS Affiliate
  • Pick up AIFS materials

We hope to see you at NAFSA!

A Musical Homestay Match in Russia

News from Abroad: A Musical Homestay Match in Russia

At AIFS, we pride ourselves on creating a unique, personal experience for each of our students. For student Zack Weese, a student at Youngstown State University who is studying abroad in St. Petersburg this semester, the homestay experience could not have been better aligned to suit his background and interests.

A violinist and music major, Zack lives in a homestay with a professional violinist from the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (whose two daughters are also violinists), and he recently had the opportunity to play in a recital at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg. Here's what he had to say about the experience:

I remember sitting on the metro going to the concert and thinking about how so many people back home might never have the chance to perform in such a large and acoustical hall like I was about to. Rehearsing with Russian pianist and local touring soloist Natalia Gavrilova as my accompanist was truly an experience as well. I had a great time rehearsing and performing with her, and the rehearsal showed me how music really is the universal language of the world...

American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS)
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