Study Abroad: Developing Global Competencies

Rachel Warner studied abroad in India and has been collecting and presenting data on how well students in the United States develop global competencies as part of her internship at ED.

Rachel Warner studied abroad in India and has been collecting and presenting data on how well students in the United States develop global competencies as part of her internship at ED.

As an intern in the International Affairs Office at ED, my main project of the summer has been collecting and presenting data on how well students in the United States develop global competencies. Globally competent people have knowledge about the world and use it to investigate beyond their immediate environment, recognize various perspectives, communicate with others, and translate ideas into actions. In schools this is done through international-based subjects such as foreign languages or world history, global knowledge entwined in other subjects, digital exchanges, and study abroad programs. Unfortunately, the data on study abroad show a dismal tale of how students are developing global competencies.

My study abroad experience in India was one of the best opportunities I have ever had, but unfortunately only 14% of U.S. students study abroad at some point during their degree program. I learned about Indian culture, religion, history, and development, all while interacting with diverse people. I also worked on what I believe is one of the most important skills: asking critical questions with humility and respect. Whether I continue to travel to different cultures or stay at home in our increasingly diverse communities, engaging with others in a respectful way is necessary to having positive and peaceful interactions.

Study abroad also teaches students how to be leaders and engage with the interconnected problems that our world faces today. Research about leaders in 30 different countries reported that nearly half of them had international experience. Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. One in five U.S. jobs is tied to international trade and hiring managers view international skills as increasingly important. Having the ability to engage with those from different backgrounds and communicate effectively enables positive change to occur. In order to handle global challenges and be leaders in the globalized future, students need to have international experiences that expose them to people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

Next spring, I have the opportunity to participate in a Semester at Sea voyage around Asia and Africa. SAS is a study abroad program where you learn on a ship and travel between 15 ports, which you then have the opportunity to explore. On the ship each student takes a comparative lens course, which connects course content to each country we visit. The reason I choose SAS for my semester abroad, however, was their idea of integrating global content into courses. One of the courses I plan on taking is International Management. In the course, students apply case studies from the countries visited to business concepts, and also participate in a field lab. I will gain firsthand experiences that will help me gain greater comprehension and appreciation of the material.

Although the data was disheartening, it can help us formulate a vision for how the development of global competencies can be promoted in the future. There are many great programs out there that help teach students about the world and how to apply that knowledge. Interning at the Department has allowed me to meet many people who are passionate about helping students succeed. I have faith that international education can be promoted and encouraged and our students can succeed in the changing international arena.

Rachel Warner is a rising junior at the College of William & Mary. She interned in the International Affairs Office in Summer 2015.


  1. Ms. Warner, studying abroad is definitely an awesome opportunity and your experience will stick with you forever. Many U.S. parents are timid about allowing their children outside of their hometown and more so outside of the country. I am foreign born and at the age of 12, I was taking two foreign languages (Spanish & Latin), Algebra, Geometry, etc. When I came to the U.S. I could have been classified as a high school graduate. However, because of age the system would not allow it.
    Experiencing education in a foreign country has many pluses. Congrats on your future endeavors.

  2. The multi-cultural work environment within the United States reflects a microcosm of the global community, so intercultural competence not only prepares an individual for the global economy of the twenty-first century, it also provides skills for managing a more diverse workforce at home. Increasingly, students prefer short-term study abroad programs over semester or year-long programs.

  3. Amazing. I must say that SAS is doing an amazing work by promoting international education and interns. I agree with you that Abroad studies should be motivated and can students should apply for it. It’s a great thing to build relation with other communities and understand their thinking and their way of living.

    Ms. Warner, Thank you so much for sharing such a great experience of your study.

  4. I think the issue of international literacy is important, but how do you think common core and its implementation impacts this goal? I think that the implementation of Common Core and increasing standardized testing requirements has reduced the freedom available to teachers, and has also reduced the time in a school day to teach subjects such as foreign languages and cultures.

    Do you think that there is a place for international literacy in elementary schools, or is it restricted to higher education through study abroad programs?

  5. I strongly recommend study abroad program for US students.Students can learn lot of things, especially culture, religion, history and developments.

  6. Wow, I am really impressed by your experiences. It is easier to try to build curricula involving world issues when you have experienced it first hand.
    I am definitely going to have to do this at some point.

    Thank you, Ms. Warner for sharing your experiences! They are very helpful to me.

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