December’s Crowdfunding Leads to More Departmental Support for Study Abroad – Thank you donors!
By Elizabeth Blood and Kenneth Reeds
For years, it was anecdotally thought that learning a language while living abroad was more efficient than simply studying at home. This commonsense belief in the power of immersion was confirmed by a study in 2004 that compared groups of native-English speakers trying to learn Spanish. One group stayed at their home university in Colorado while another went abroad to Alicante, Spain. Unsurprisingly, the study reached the following conclusion:
students who spent a semester studying in Spain were found to have made greater gains in oral proficiency and in several aspects of oral fluency compared to those who studied at their home university in the United States
Of course, the benefits of study abroad are not limited to language acquisition. Other research has shown alumni of these programs to be more interculturally sensitive, quicker to find employment after graduation, possessing a better sense of self-esteem, and more likely to earn higher salaries.
It is with benefits like these in mind that faculty in our department joke with students that we’re proud to be the place that follows our welcome to Salem State with the advice that it’s time to “go away”.
Study abroad statistics at our university, unfortunately, are difficult: Approximately 1% of Salem State students study abroad. Compare that to their peers at private universities in Massachusetts: 30% of Clark University students study abroad, 46% of students at Bentley University, and 50% of students at Boston College.
Our students work hard to pay for their education. It is inspiring to see them so dedicated to achieving their dream of a college education, but the cost of education is a burden for many who have to work multiple jobs, take out large sums in student loans, and often have family responsibilities in addition to their school work. For many, the thought of studying abroad for a summer or a full semester—let alone a full year—seems to be an impossible dream. Not only is there the additional cost of travel and tuition at another institution, but also they must give up the income they are earning from their jobs while abroad. Financial concerns are the number one reason our students do not study abroad.
Conscious that money is such an obstacle between a student’s desires to spend a semester outside the US and making that dream a reality, every year the Department of World Languages and Cultures provides $1,000 in support of study abroad. In December 2015 we participated in a university-wide crowdfunding effort with the goal of raising money to expand this support and thanks to generous donations we have been able to provide an additional $500 to each major who plans to spend at least a semester abroad during the 2016-2017 school year.
Thank you to the donors who made it possible for more of our students to go away to learn language, become more internationally aware, more attractive to employers, and—most importantly—to fulfill their dreams.