Carlson School of Management News

New Research Confirms Value of Learning Abroad

Friday, August 30, 2013

Outcomes of International Experiences

Research from the field of international education indicates that individuals who complete an international experience are more likely to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Improved understanding of differences between the United States and the host culture
  • Increased awareness of native culture and self
  • Better ability to adapt behavior and communication to fit cultural norms
  • Increased understanding of similarities and differences in cross-cultural business practices
  • Increased tolerance for working through ambiguous or unfamiliar situations
  • Proficiency in navigating unfamiliar geographic contexts or problems
  • Improved proficiency in solving problems and analytical thinking
  • Higher productivity in diverse teams
  • Increased independence and self-reliance
  • Stronger language skills
  • Increased creativity
Immersing oneself in a new cultural environment enriches students in innumerable ways -- that's why all Carlson School students are required to complete an international experience as part of their education. While the Carlson Global Institute has long believed these experiences have positive career and personal implications , it was crucial to gather empirical evidence to support this notion.

This year, CGI released the results of a comprehensive study to verify the link between international experiences and increased global competence. This research examined how studying abroad affects global competence and intensity of global mindsets in its participants.

The study scored undergraduate students' overall global competence using the Intercultural Development Inventory, a statistically reliable measure of intercultural sensitivity and awareness.

The results clearly showed students who participated in any international program demonstrated a higher motivation to become more globally competent. Participants in semester-long programs showed the highest level of intercultural development, while participants in short-term programs scored close behind.

"To be globally minded is to be skilled at dealing with uncertainty, to be comfortable interacting with people from unfamiliar cultures, and to be more willing to accept cultural norms other than your own," says Michael Houston, Associate Dean of Global Initiatives. "It's having a framework to guide your understanding of different cultures."

An accompanying study of part-time MBA students showed similar outcomes. CGI evaluated these students using the Global Mindset Inventory, an assessment tool designed to measure a global leader's ability to better influence individuals, groups, and organizations unlike themselves. In addition to identifying differences among students who had or had not studied abroad, the research factored the respondent's progress in the MBA program -- whether the student was early in their MBA studies, nearing graduation, or had recently graduated. Regardless of the student's progress in the program, those that had an international experience showed significantly higher global mindset scores. This means the experience of studying abroad was instrumental in helping students understand and interact with people from diverse cultures.

"Understanding global business practices and learning to communicate more effectively cross culturally are very important skills in our global economy," says Anne D'Angelo, Assistant Dean of Global Initiatives. "Alumni often describe how their education abroad experiences change the trajectory of their career decisions and paths."

For more international stories, check out the CGI Year in Review

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