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Two-thirds of students underestimate the value of studying abroad – report

Out of all the students who have the chance to study abroad and reap its many benefits, only 34 percent end up taking advantage of the opportunity, found a recent study commissioned by education company Kaplan.

In the white paper written by The Economist Intelligence Unit, entitled ‘Going Global: Are graduates prepared for a global workforce?’, researchers surveyed 1,072 recent graduates from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, the UK, and the U.S.

What they discovered was that even though 75 percent of respondents had the chance to study abroad during their higher education studies, only slightly more than a third of them actually took up the opportunity.

The report also looked at the availability of study abroad opportunities based on country and found that students in Germany and the U.S. had the most access to international experience, with 87 percent and 81 percent respectively.

In comparison, fewer students in China and Brazil had access, with 48 percent and 55 percent respectively.

Despite less than half of them having the chance to study abroad, however, Chinese students were the most aware of how beneficial studying overseas can be for securing a job (68 percent).

For around 50 percent of all respondents, however, it was a case of too little, too late – they only realised the value of international experience after graduation, while conducting their job search.

According to the report’s authors, students with international experience were more likely to be employed within six months after graduating and were much more likely to have international aspects to their job scope.

Andrew Rosen, CEO at Kaplan, said: “Graduates with international experience tend to find employment faster than those without it. Languages, intercultural awareness, and overseas contacts are highly valued by potential employers.

“This research seeks to understand how universities, companies, and students themselves can better prepare for the global workplace.”

Based on responses from the students taking part in the study, 78 percent felt that higher education institutions had a responsibility to prepare them for the global workplace.

Rosen added that although universities are the chief conduit for international learning, the study’s findings revealed that a large number of students are still unaware of “how critical international experience has become”.

The survey shows that the key form of international experience sought by graduates is foreign languages, with almost half of respondents (48 percent) studying a foreign language in addition to their primary discipline.

Non-Anglophone students recognised the importance of learning a foreign language more than those who speak English as their mother tongue, but 79 percent of all graduates were aware of the advantage in being multilingual when it comes to improving job prospects.

Enrico Sangiorgi, Vice Rector for Education at the University of Bologna, Italy, said in the report: “The mission of universities, and even more so public universities, is to prepare students for employability, and today that means the global market. Our students must be prepared for a global workplace.”

Andre Martin, vice president for talent development and chief learning officer at Nike, said in the report that global skills are more likely to be found in applicants with a ‘growth mindset’.

“Global multinational companies are looking for diverse skills and experiences in three areas – technical skills, life experiences, and educational background. What we’re seeing employers looking for more and more are people with inter-disciplinary skills.

“The growth mindset is not built by staying in one place. Multinationals also need people to be mobile, not tied to one place, and open to the idea of travel,” he said.

Image via Unsplash

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