Study Abroad Programs Crucial in Predicting Future Professional Success

A key aspect of education is the ability to immerse students in different cultural environments. Not only do such programs develop the professional and academic skills of the individual, but there are proven long term positive impacts from such experiences (Dwyer et al., 2004). Assessing how study abroad programs have effected students lives, Dwyer has found that they indeed positively impact personal, academic, intercultural, and career development positively. Understanding the ramifications of such findings, it is obvious of the importance of including such programs as part of curriculum at the university level for students, as we prepare the academics, professionals, and global leaders of tomorrow. Moreover, the length of the experience was a key aspect of how much the program impacted perceived success. Kedia and Cornwell (1994) established a theoretical basis for rationalizing it’s significance in an institution’s international education mission. The most basic mission for institutions such as universities is international awareness. Students with international understandings of the mechanisms involved in different culture allow them to act upon that knowledge. Therefore, from a business perspective, creating greater efficiency in decision making. Furthermore, Hadis has found that students who study abroad graduate with higher grade point averages than students who do not study abroad (Handis, 1998).

International travel is extremely conducive to Action Learning. “Action Learning incorporates interactive, case based, problem-based and other pedagogical techniques that involve students directly in the educational process” (Currie et. al, 48). For business schools in the importance of Action Learning is crucial as future managers in the era of globalization need acute international expertise. Study abroad programs offer opportunities for future managers to develop these skills in an Action Learning environment. Muuka (et al., 1999) argue that short term study abroad programs are the most efficient way to globalize learning and reduce costs. Shorter trips expose students to the basic principles of currency exchange, customs restrictions, economic differences, and cultural dynamics that dictate the world economy. In addition, shorter trips more readily accommodate student schedules. Consequently, for those students, short-term study-abroad programs that last less than a semester are the best choices for most students. “They can make living in a foreign country easier and less threatening; in some cases, they give students the confidence to participate in subsequent programs that last a full semester or year” (Lewis et. Al, 2005).

“Study-abroad programs can enhance students’ acquisition of a foreign language, improve their knowledge of the host culture, and even transform their worldviews. Yet less than 1 percent of American college students study abroad each year. And of those who do, almost one-third enroll in programs that take place in English-speaking countries or that use English as the language of instruction” (Lewis et. Al, 2005). That reduces the impact of the experience because of the lack of immersion in a foreign language. Lewis (et al., 2005) reached four major conclusions regarding the study abroad experience from data and research conducted at Muhlenberg College. First, students were more likely to take courses outside their department upon returning to their university, due to their participation in the program. For example, taking additional language courses. Secondly, almost half of our students traveled or studied abroad again. “For example, one student noted that: the short-term program gave me more confidence to do a semester program” (Lewis et. Al, 2005).

Third, most of the students demonstrated increased interest in interdisciplinary studies. Fourth, all students indicated that their participation in the program had increased their understanding of the mechanisms of globalization. Students’ analysis of globalization became more sophisticated through the strategies of interlinking the short-term study abroad with both course work and community interaction. Both short-term and long-term study-abroad programs can meet some of the goals of the liberal arts and business in general. (Lewis et. Al, 2005).The students who took courses offered by Lewis and Niesenbaum reported that it had made them question their assumptions, gather and interpret data, and use the data to reach a better understanding of their own role in a globalized society. Consequently, several research initiatives in various disciplines have demonstrated the vast impacts that study aborad programs have.

Study abroad programs offer university students a unique and exciting opportunity to complete college coursework in international environments. Consequently, students are not only learning from the classroom, they are learning about the differences between cultural contexts, and learning from their environment. Study abroad programs are crucial in not only educating students about the aspects of globalization, they are effective ways of increasing college enrollment and revenue. Moreover, internationally known study abroad programs heighten the level of notoriety and prestige for the university. At Florida International University (FIU), the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) was established in 1995 to “promote the international understanding, enhanced international expertise, and broader awareness about the internationalization of business” (CIBER, 2005). CIBER undertakes various academic and professional initiatives to promote international education and research in business. One such initiative is the unique study abroad opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Business, and other colleges at FIU. Since previous research has demonstrated the importance of such programs, an analysis of what factors impacts enrollment in CIBER programs well shed light on how to better offer programs to broaden the student experience.

Methods
Utilizing data collected from all CIBER programs conducted from 2003-2005, a preliminary analysis of factors impacting enrollment are assessed. The sample was comprised of students who participated in the study abroad programs from CIBER 2002-2005 (n=219). From the data various inferences can be made regarding the composition of the programs. Programs were held during Summer A, Summer B, Spring, and Fall. The countries visited were Australia, Germany, Greece, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Central Europe, and Spain. The courses offered have varied from trip to trip, but a complete list will be presented in the following sections. Moreover, the hypothesis for this research postulates that the country visited will be the most important factor impacting enrollment. The dependent variable will be the country visited, the independent variables will be the courses offered, gender, semester, nationality, and year. Nationality has been recoded into national regions to perform a broader range of statistical analysis, and compare differences among groups.

The mean average enrollment for the past three years is 73 students. France, followed by Italy then Spain, are the most popular programs. Females are the predominate sex enrolling in classes. Strategic Management had the highest enrollment (MAN4722=124)(one reason being is that it is a required course that is consistently offered in every term), followed by International Business (MAN4602=71), Special Topics in Management (MAN4930=66), and MNC Strategic Management(MAN4633=50). Spring semester is the semester with the highest enrollment rate, followed by Summer A. Fall and Summer B have pretty similar enrollment rates. Therefore, 8.2% of all students enrolled attended the study abroad program in Australia, 5.9% in Germany; 7.8% in Greece; 21.5% in Italy; 26.5% in France; 4.6% in Bulgaria; 4.6% in Central Europe; and 21.0% in Spain.

Taking a closer look at the data for the three most popular classes: Strategic Management, International Business, Special Topics, and MNC Strategic Management we can do some bivariate analysis of their relationship to some other variables. France has the highest sum of enrollment in MAN4602 (International Business), followed by Italy and Spain. A similar relationship is found between MAN4633 (MNC Strategic Management). MAN4744 (Strategic Management) has the highest sum of enrollment in Spain (only surpassing France by one case), and followed by France and Italy. For Special Topics (MAN4930), France, Italy and Spain (in that order) where the countries where higher enrollment sums where found. Furthermore, there is a significant relationship between the courses MAN4602 & 4722 at the .05 level; and a significant relationship between country and MAN4633 at the .00 level.

Moreover, Females lead enrollment in MAN4602, MAN4633, MAN4930, and MAN4722. Although not statistically significant, Spring had the highest enrollment sum for MAN4602, MAN4633, MAN4722; while there was a one case difference for MAN4930 where both Spring and Summer A had very high enrollment sums (see Appendix section on Crosstabs for more detail). The following pages include a summary of significant findings utilizing bivariate statistics tests.

Using stepwise linear regression to examine variables within the dataset that were strong determinates of enrollment, we can asses the relationship between these variables. Bases on conclusions from bivariate and univariate analysis, it is hypothesized that country will be the strongest detriment of enrollment. Therefore country is the dependent variable. What impacts enrollment by country are then assessed by including the courses with consistently high enrollment sums (MAN4602, MAN4633, MAN4930, and MAN4722), SEMESTER, and GENDER. Stepwise linear regression is used to find the best fitting model to exemplify the relationship among these variables. Three models were generated by the stepwise regression, all indicating significantly high statistical importance between the variables included in each respective model, indicating there is a causal relationship between the variables associated in each model. Model three with the highest F value (158.23) and a R squared (.688) included MAN4633, SEMESTER, MAN4602 in it’s analysis. Therefore there is a causal relationship between these courses and the semester have a casual relationship the country selected as a destination in regards to enrollment.

Discussion
A key issue with the data is inconsistency in courses offered. Although there are high rates of enrollment, the CIBER programs would benefit greatly by integrating lower level business courses consistently into the curricula. Moreover, CIBER programs, since developed specifically for business students, do not have the proper exposure to other colleges within the university. Marketing GEB2011 (Introduction to Business) to undergraduates would likely increase enrollment rates, but revenue for the university. Since MAN4633 and MAN4602 are part of required core curricula they are the courses which are receiving the most enrollment. What is interesting is that, MAN4722 was not as strong predictor as MAN4633 in the regression model. Taking into account research by Hadis, it could be that traditionally the anxiety over course performance is alleviated during study abroad experiences, and MAN4633, a course very classified as “nerve racking” can take on a new meaning, or sub-contextual experience when studying abroad. Furthermore, students may feel they gain new insight into understanding topics presented by the course that covers multinational aspects in an international environment.

Another key issue that is presented by the data is the lack of Graduate enrollment. Ninety-five percent of the time MAN6601 & 6606 where not offered on study abroad programs and; seventy-one percent of the time MAN5782 was not offered. As previous research has shown the positive impacts of international study, graduate students who are prone to research may be aware of such impacts and seek abroad opportunities elsewhere. Therefore, CIBER must implement policy to encourage international study by graduate students. Graduate students will not only increase enrollment, they will more likely be able to contribute to the working paper series that CIBER has implemented. Furthermore, graduate students can aid in designing and teaching courses to undergraduates on future abroad programs through the CIBER office. As previous research has shown, study abroad opportunities are key features of MBA programs in the United States. The are being integrated in various fashions across the spectrum of programs. Therefore, this analysis demonstrates the lack of efficient implementation of graduate programs, and the need for more core class abroad opportunities, specifically short term programs. As a result, offering core courses during the spring break abroad program in France would be an excellent opportunity to meet these goals. Furthermore, developing a short term course for graduate study in a complex process. Another option maybe a hybrid course, with WebCT content that incorporates the study abroad experience.

A limitation of this study is the small number of cases available, and the short range of time period. Greater confidence in findings can be held if the data set was larger and broader. Therefore a recommendation of this analysis is to implement a virtual system (preferably online) to collect data that could be handled by a database management program like Access which can generate data that can subsequently be processed by statistical software packages. Designing a survey in such manner will encompass in greater scope the motivations and determinates of enrollment. A greater examination would benefit from a time lag analysis; therefore, including data for the greatest period of time would be most beneficial. With these recommendations in mind, adjustments in data collection should be made to facilitate the next attempt to analyze CIBER data.

Conclusion
The problem facing international business as a discipline, is offering international business experience as part of core curriculum. Study abroad programs offer such opportunities. Study abroad opportunities make students more marketable after graduation, and help in the establishment of social networks. Therefore understanding the mechanisms involved in course enrollment will allow for the successful development of management and marketing plans to facilitate learning and professional development. Certain Graduate schools in Business require abroad experience as part of required curricula. Although this is not recommend at this stage due the lack of interest by FIU graduate students, as exemplified by the data, a greater emphasis should be place by graduate faculty to promote this endeavor.

This study has found that the country visited has a linear casual relationship with semester, along with MAN4633 (MNC Strategic Management), and MAN4602 (International Business). These variables demonstrate some of the motivations students have behind enrolling in study abroad programs. For instance, Spring programs are popular because of it’s destination (France) and because students often see the short period of spring break as an opportunity to cram in a whole semesters worth of work while on vacation. Thirty-two percent of all students who participated attended a program during the Spring term. One can also conclude why the shortest trip in length is the most popular is because it is more easily accommodated into the students schedule. Moreover, Summer A programs follow because students seek an opportunity to travel to a desirable destination (Spain) and take core course work. And the Fall program (Italy) follows for the same reason; one can conclude Spain has a higher sum of enrollment due to the desirability of the season. These programs are consistently offered at the same time and therefore, students become increasingly aware of the cycle of programs. Consequently, implementing a new abroad program, even if it’s an increasingly desirable destination, will take enormous amount of marketing and work from all involved in the programs implementation to ensure it’s success.

References
Center for International Business Research and Education. Date accessed 9/9/05

Currie, David M., Serge Matulich, and James P. Gilbert. (2004). “Foregin Travel in North American MBA Programs.” Journal of Teaching in International Business, 15(3), 45-59.

Dwyer, Mary M. and Courtney K. Peters. (2004). The Benefits of Study Abroad. Transitions Abroad, 37(5), 56.

Kedia, B.L. & T.B. Cornwell. (1994). “Mission Based Strategies for Internationalizing U.S. Business Schools,” Journal of Teaching in International Business, 5(3), 11-29.

Hadis, Benjamin F. (1998). The Benefits of Study Abroad. Transitions Abroad. 21(6).

Mukka, G.N., D.E. Harrison, and S.Y. Hassan. (1999). “International Business in American MBA Programs: Can We Slience the Critics.” Journal of Education for Business, 74(4), 237-242.

Lewis, Tammy L. and Richard A. Niesenbaum.(2005) “The benefits of short-term study abroad.” The Chronicle of Higher Education,

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