There’s an old joke that is often told when the topic of Americans and cross-cultural astuteness comes up:
What do you call a person who speaks many languages? Answer: multilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Answer: bilingual.
What about someone who just speaks one? Answer: an American.
While this joke specifically targets a lack of Americans learning foreign languages, the broader message reflects a notion held by many of Americans as disinterested in global affairs in general.
A major challenge our generation faces, which is inextricably linked with our national security, is reversing the “ugly American” image held worldwide.
Coming to Ghana gave me hope that the negative portrayal of Americans as apathetic towards what happens at the global scale will gradually dwindle down. Next to Nigerians, Americans accounted for the most heavily represented international student group at the University of Ghana.
Overall, the number of American college students participating in study abroad programs has seen an increase, save for immediately following the September 11 attacks. According to an Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education, since the 1991-1992 academic year, the number of American students studying abroad for credit has increased by 145 percent from 71,154 to 174,629.
The top five destinations for American college study abroad students included the United Kingdom (31,706), Italy (18,936), Spain (18,865), France (13,080) and Australia (10,691).
While 64 percent of the students accounted for in the Open Doors report spent their study abroad in Europe, there has been a steady increase in the number of students going to traditionally less popular locations, such as Latin America, Asia and Africa.
In encouraging the continuance of these promising statistics, IIE President Allan Goodman said: “graduating students with a global vision and global competencies will be key to America’s economic success in the 21st century and to its ability to provide global leadership in the challenging times ahead.”
For many students, a lack of motivation to gain the global vision and competencies referred to by Goodman is not what is holding them back from going abroad but, rather, a lack of economic resources.
Students should be aware, however, of the numerous state and privately funded scholarships available to finance these exchanges.
Currently, for example, applications for the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship are being accepted for the 2009-2010 academic year. The world’s largest privately funded international scholarship, the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship awards students up to $24,000 to study abroad for a year in any institution of their choosing — on the condition that there is a Rotary club in the vicinity.
Although applications are due no later than Feb. 29, students are encouraged to begin their applications as soon as possible for it requires essay writing and obtaining recommendation letters.
As one who has been a recipient of this generous scholarship, I can attest to the benefits that come with it, including finding a family away from home and gaining knowledge through unconventional learning. I highly recommend students who are interested in studying abroad, but lack the financial means to look into this option.
For more information, please visit the CSU International Student and Scholar Services at Laurel Hall.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.