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Engaging the K-12 Audience in Study Abroad

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Written by Karen Lee 

Karen: I'm on board because... On September 12, 2014, IIE hosted a Think Tank on Engaging the K-12 Audience in Study Abroad as part of the Generation Study Abroad Initiative. A select group of practitioners and thought leaders were invited to participate in this collaborative event which was designed to brainstorm ideas on how best to involve teachers and administrators in the process so that students head off to college both understanding the value of studying abroad and prepared to pursue it.

I was lucky enough to be a part of the amazing conversations that took place during the Think Tank. In my group were people who work for schools around the region, for organizations that focus on study abroad opportunities and for non-profits that provide opportunities for learning from the global classroom. Our only guidelines for the day were to think big and make sure we wrote down our ideas! 

My group began to focus in on how to remove barriers so that all students have access to opportunities to study abroad. This included identifying the stakeholders and the current barriers standing in the way of the goal to double the number of students studying abroad by the end of the decade. The conversation had many layers to it, representing each of our perspectives, but the energy around finding a solution and adding new possibilities was contagious. Although our time was limited, our ideas were big. We talked about creating a human library where students could 'check out' people talking about specific countries and experiences, connecting careersKaren presenting her group's ideas to skills that can only be found in specific countries and beginning a campaign with photos and personal narratives that reflected the diverse population of students we were targeting. Other groups added ideas around teacher buy-in and curriculum development. Some groups focused on developing partnerships with businesses and private enterprises to support the vision. By the end of the day, the conference room was lined with chart paper and ideas that will not only begin to engage young people in the conversations about studying abroad, but will lead to incredible opportunities to engage in the world around them.   

This event is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the big plans being put in place to make this goal a reality. Each of us walked out of the conversations with our heads spinning, armed with personal commitments and new ideas for ways we can help our schools and students get excited about studying abroad!

Find out how you can be a part of this important initiative on the Generation Study Abroad website.

Karen Lee is an alumna of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by IIE.


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