Lack of Diversity in Study Abroad - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

Lack of Diversity in Study Abroad

by Aliyah Abraham

For many students, the costs associated with studying abroad can seem insurmountable. But the Black Alumni Association of Arcadia University (BAAAU) believes that going abroad should be a right of each Arcadia student, not a privilege. Choice should be the reason students do not study abroad, and not affordability.

African-American students make up a mere 5.9 percent of students who study abroad, according to a 2016 diversity study by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. While the participation rate may be low, the success rate of African-American students who participate in international studies is not — a 2017 report, Underrepresented Students in US Study Abroad: Investigating Impacts by the Institute of International Education (IIE), noted that African-American students who studied abroad had a 31.2 percent higher graduation rate than those who did not.

BAAAU wants to change the participation demographics of Arcadia University’s Preview program, a two-credit course during the spring semester for first-year and new transfer students with a week-long international experience over spring break. At Arcadia, the data for African-American student participation in Preview is around the national study abroad average, according to Arcadia’s Office of International Programs — 5 percent in 2017 and 6.2 percent in 2018. We believe that can be improved.

Aliyah Abraham

The BAAAU scholarship fund, which in its first year exceeded its fundraising goal of $7,500 by $2,550, is the first step in providing a study abroad opportunity for students who have historically been unable to participate. Ten Arcadia students, who self-identify as Black or African-American, have been awarded funds to travel on Preview and an in-country stipend to offset the cost of food and activities. The funds also will cover the passport cost for five of the 10 students. In the upcoming year we are hoping to double the awarded scholarships with our “20for2020” campaign, which will bring the total scholarships available to 20 students for Preview 2020.

When the idea of the travel scholarship program came into existence, I thought it would be straightforward, with individuals simply stating they were in financial need. Boy, was I wrong. The applications moved the BAAAU scholarship committee (alumni, staff and faculty) to tears. As we poured through student statements, we read stories of financial constraints, terminal illnesses and so much more. This scholarship fund was more important than we had realized.

Preview often provides a transformational experience to student participants, revealing to them that the world is bigger than their daily environment. For many, it is their initial experience on an airplane, getting a passport and going through customs. A recent study by IIE, called The Power of International Education, shows that international experiences, even those that are short-term, raise students’ confidence levels.

My Preview classmates encouraged me to be the change agent I am today. Before I went London, I remained indifferent toward many college programs on campus. Being abroad changed my perceptions — when you’re away from home, you look for any commonality with your classmates, and for us it was Arcadia students; that began to solidify our bonds to each other, and also to the university. If it had not been for our common bond, I would not have had a connection with those classmates who encouraged me to step out and speak up, due to differences in our race, age and majors. International study serves as an unique part of the collegiate experience, where on domestic campuses we are often challenged by attempting to break the silos that divide our campuses, but overseas those silos are not as prevalent.

Too few African-American students study abroad. Our scholarship fund might not be the solution that solves the participation problem, but it may be a step in the right direction for a much needed change.

BAAAU President Aliyah Abraham received a degree in Business Administration from Arcadia University in 2018. During her senior year she founded BAAAU, the first alumni organization for people of color at Arcadia. The mission of the BAAAU is to promote the presence, empowerment, and success of Arcadia’s Black alumni, students, faculty, staff, and community members through professional, educational, social, and networking programs, as well as through philanthropic support and opportunities.

RELATED ARTICLES >>
Proficiency Over Privilege We are appalled but not surprised about the revelation of the ubiquitous celebrity admissions scandal. To clarify, the story of college acceptance abuse was steered by the privilege of wealthy individuals who sought to circumvent the traditional admi...
IIE Summit Highlights the Importance of Study Abroad NEW YORK – Against a backdrop of young people who communicate in fewer words and more pictures, and with young people of color continuing to avoid study abroad more than their counterparts, about 600 educators, students and administrators came togeth...
Diversity Abroad Conference to Focus on Inclusive Excellence in Global Education More than 700 senior international administrators, student affairs professionals, study abroad office staff, faculty and more will gather in Boston for Diversity Abroad’s 7th Annual Conference this March. Campus representatives network during a p...
Rutgers Can Do More for New Jersey’s African-American Population In January, 2019 Rutgers kicked off a year of celebrations to mark 100 years since the graduation of our famous alum, Paul Robeson. Yet, despite the hoopla, the university continues to neglect the needs of African-Americans in our state in a manner t...
Semantic Tags: