To study or not to study : a critical look at study abroad : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)
Study abroad participation has been increasing every year across the United States — at Ball State alone, 45% more students studied abroad in 2003-2004 than did in 2001-2002, with 563 students studying abroad in the 2003-2004 school year. Every year, more students are experiencing the cultural interaction that study abroad allows and are gaining the social and career skills that study abroad promises. The Ball State Center for International Programs, like other study abroad offices at U.S. universities, is excited about these participation increases and has begun promoting its study abroad programs more vigorously in recent years.However, without concrete assessment of what students are learning abroad and with universities' focus resting entirely on increasing participation numbers rather than on ensuring the quality of study abroad programs, the purpose of study abroad may be slipping away from educational concerns and toward tourist interests. Unless universities begin paying more attention to how they advertise and discuss study abroad — by promoting the cultural interactions available in a program, rather than students' opportunities to see famous sites, for example — students may increasingly view study abroad as a way to see the world, from a tourist perspective, rather than as a way to interact with unfamiliar cultures and learn about those cultures as well as their own American culture. The possibilities for student growth through study abroad must not be neglected by irresponsible marketing of study abroad programs.