Beyond The States
Beyond The States
International Education and Career Development

What does the research say about the benefits of studying abroad? Why are American students far behind the world when it comes to studying abroad? Why do only 10-14% of college freshmen end up studying abroad even though 63% of them wish to take a semester beyond the states? Tune in as Jenn answers these questions!

Later in the episode, Jenn opens a discussion with Marty Tillman, a prolific speaker, an author, an advocate for international studies, and the president of Global Career Compass. Marty shares his valuable experience in working with young people, bringing their needs closer to the listeners of this episode. Furthermore, the guest of the show reveals the impacts of international education on students’ career development and goes through some of the most common concerns students and their parents have. Lend an ear to this week’s podcast and find out more!

“There is a career impact, and there is no question for me. It’s got to be discussed with the student about the importance of what they are going to undertake. They need not to minimize the potential impact on their career.” Marty Tillman

Podcast Transcript –

Intro: You’re listening to the Beyond the States podcast with Jenn Viemont. Did you know that you can go to Europe and get your entire degree taught in English for less than one year of tuition at many American schools? Jenn will take you on a deep dive into the many benefits and options around English-taught higher education in Europe, helping to make the possibility less foreign.

Jenn Viemont: Today we’re going to be talking to Martin Tillman, who has incredible knowledge about what the research says about the benefits of studying abroad. Now, these benefits aren’t confined to seeking your degree abroad. They also focus on study abroad programs that so many students have access to in college. But American students are far behind much of the world when it comes to studying abroad. The good news is that 63% of US college freshmen intend to study abroad. I love that there are that many that are interested in international experiences. The bad news is that only between 10 to 14%, depending on who you include in that number, actually ended up studying abroad during their time in college. And these were stats from before COVID. So that wasn’t even a variable with these numbers. 

So what about the roughly 50% of students who were interested, but don’t end up doing it? What gets in their way? Again, let’s talk about the pre and what will soon hopefully be the post COVID days, because we all know that that’s been a major obstacle in the last couple of years. So logistics, that’s one category of obstacles. Certainly cost is one that would fall under that. It’s really amazing when you compare some of the costs around this, for instance, University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana, it’s my husband’s alma mater. And they have a number of options, one of which is in Belgium, where students study at KU Leuven. Now, first, let me say that I think it’s really cool that they have programs where the students actually study at the European university, because there are many, where students go to a country and they study at some Institute, which is only for study abroad students, so they’re not integrated into the local student community. And that really changes the experience. But okay, let’s get back to Leuven and UEFI. So, while the overall semester program costs for UEFI students is right around 16,000 for the semester at KU Leuven, we’re just going to look at the tuition and the tuition related fees since there are so many other costs that are hard to compare apples to apples when we’re looking at you know, the UEFI study abroad, semester abroad student and a KU Leuven international degree seeking student. 

So, KU Leuven has five English taught Bachelor’s, and the average tuition that international students pay is $3,500 in tuition for the entire year. So let’s just say that their semester tuition cost is 1,750. So that’s the international student studying a KU Leuven as a degree seeking student, the UEFI student who’s coming for just the semester, their tuition or instruction related costs, they’re going to pay $3,879 in instructional fees $2,035 in fees related to excursions, field trips, and orientation $1,003 in tuition to UIC, where you arrive where they won’t even be for this semester, they’re going to pay an $800, Illinois abroad administration fee, a $100 study abroad systems fee, and a $293 general fee. I mean, I love that there’s just a general fee, no explanation, just almost $300 tacked on. Anyhow, their tuition related costs for a semester is $7,207, which is more than four times the cost for the KU Leuven international student. They’re at the same facilities for studies, they have the same professors, but vastly different costs. 

So cost is just one logistic that can get in the way. Others might be the student needing to work and not being able to leave for a semester because they need to have part time employment. Or maybe they’re involved in collegiate sports or other activities that they really can’t get away from. Sort of tied to that is the fear of missing out, whether it’s missing out on what they see are important aspects of their social life, or just missing out on the day to day experiences with their friend. I recently ran into somebody who I’m friendly with, and she was talking about her daughter’s plan to study abroad in Scotland. And what had started out as a plan to study there for a year, then went down to a semester, and now it’s down to even shorter than a semester, and it’s 100% due to the fear of missing out. Other fears include, besides just the fear of missing out, include the fear of the unknown, or fears about the world that aren’t grounded in facts. 

So I once saw a Facebook post from someone who was interested in studying in Europe, well she was interested in her children studying in Europe. But she said she was just too scared to do it because, I am not joking, because of human trafficking. So I could provide you with a number of stats that indicate that this is an incredibly irrational fear. But since you’re listening to this podcast, I probably don’t need to do that. That said, the daughter of one of our close family friends, she’s a senior in college here in the US. And she considered a study abroad program earlier in her studies, one in Italy, but her Italian professor talked her out of it, well didn’t really talk her specifically out of it, but talked so frequently about how unsafe much of Italy is that it made her think, oh, she probably shouldn’t do that. So I have to tell you guys, I’ve traveled alone as a woman in a number of Italian cities, and never did I feel unsafe. Is that to say the whole country is safe? Absolutely not. But I think she missed out on a great opportunity because of this fear that was instilled in her from somebody who she saw as sort of an expert on it. So kind of a bummer. So maybe it’s logistics, or maybe it’s being discouraged from doing it from your friends, or even your professors, or maybe it’s fear based, or maybe it’s something else. 

For instance, the idea of studying abroad might sound like a good idea when entering college, but without a deep curiosity about the world, or even without knowledge about the world, it’s not likely to be a high priority. I was reading this study, and I’ll put it in the show notes. It tested adult Americans about World Affairs and Geography, the average score was right around 50%. And only 6% of the respondents scored better than 80%. A few disturbing facts from the study, more than 70% said they didn’t learn about Foreign Policy in school. And I read this and I thought about my own education. I went to a private high school in Chicago. And it’s connected to the University of Chicago. And though they certainly offered classes around Foreign Policy, when I was a student there and Model UN was a huge thing in my high school, I was able to graduate, I was able to meet graduation requirements without taking any of those. And same with college as a Psych major, I didn’t have to take any of those classes, I could meet the Gen Ed requirements and graduation requirements without taking those specific types of courses. 

There were other findings in this study as well that were notable. For instance, less than half of respondents were able to identify Afghanistan as a country that provided Al Qaeda with a safe haven prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, despite the fact that that there was a war with Afghanistan for nearly two decades. Now, I’ll tell you though, this is a hard quiz, I started taking it, I didn’t complete it, because I didn’t want to see my score. But I think too many of us, myself included, don’t know enough about the world. I went to this function at UNC where Frank Bruni spoke, and he talked about how the articles in the internet national sections of the newspapers are the least clicked, which then leads to less articles in the international sections of the paper, so it becomes this sort of circular effect. And so what comes first, in this terms of international curiosity, is it the chicken or the egg? Do you have to have international experiences? And do those experiences lead to international interest in curiosity, or do international interests lead to international experience? I really think it can be either. Certainly it’s rare that international experiences don’t lead to more international interest and curiosity. And the more those are pursued, the more likely qualities related to global citizenship are likely to develop. So if 63% of these students are showing some interest, I wish there were less obstacles and more encouragement for them to pursue those interests. 

So let’s talk about for a second, the small percentage of students who do take the opportunity. Of these students who are studying abroad, we’re getting that 10 to 14% of the college freshmen, 62% of them are studying abroad for less than eight weeks. So if I go on a long trip somewhere, my experience is going to be much different than if I’m moving someplace to live for three to four years. On a trip, my focus is more likely to be, you know, trying all the great restaurants, seeing all the tourist sites, you know, all cramming all of that in one there. And there’s nothing bad about this international experience of any sort is awesome in my book, but the experience is much different than the person who is moving to the area, who might be focused on figuring out the grocery stores, you know, more so than the restaurants, or finding different ways to establish themselves in the area, be it making friends, finding a gym, finding a doctor, finding ways to get involved in the school in the community. Of course, this student is like the degree seeking student and the student exploring all the restaurants and the sights and all of that is more like the short term study abroad student. The semester abroad student, they’re going to have a lot less obstacles. And they’re also going to have a lot more hand holding than the degree seeking student will. But the impact of some of the benefits we’re going to discuss with Martin will be far greater for the degree seeking student. And the study showed this too, that the longer students study abroad, the greater the impact, the more significant the academic, the cultural, and the personal development benefits are. 

But the survey also suggests that study abroad programs lasting at least six weeks can produce good academic personal career and intercultural development outcomes, so they’re not for nothing. So I guess my point here is, I truly believe that international experiences and seeing yourself as a citizen of the world is important. It’s important to the world, and it also leads to a number of personal benefits. I do think that living outside of your home country, as opposed to vacationing, is the best route to do that. And what better time in one’s life to do this than as young adults, when responsibilities to others are decreased, or, you know, not as significant as they’ll be later in life, when they’re still forming their identity and their values in the world perspective. So whether through study abroad or degree seeking abroad, I really hope that more American students are able to make this a priority and a reality in their life. We’re going to take a quick break, and then we’ll be back with Martin Tillman to talk about these really cool benefits.

Testimonial: Hi, I’m Maclan and I’m in my second year studying at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Before I began my degree, my sister started university in the Czech Republic, which inspired me to explore my options of going to school in Europe. But I was still lost at what exactly I needed to do in order to attend university abroad. This is where Beyond the States stepped in. My sister had previously worked with them. They built a best fit list of universities for her to consider. Over time, Beyond the States has expanded its options. I was able to take advantage of the personalized approach to explore what I found most useful. I was a part of the first On Your Mark master class where I learned what I found to be most exciting to study, where my interests aligned, and what universities I was most interested in. Before the master class, I was lost and overwhelmed with what to focus on. Beyond the States gave me a sense of direction. Before, I was only following my sister’s path. Through their help and support system, studying in Europe was able to become a reality for me. The class is offered three times a year and fills up every time. Check the show notes for more information and to sign up for the next session.

Jenn Viemont: So today we’re speaking to Marty Tillman. He’s a prolific speaker, author, and advocate for International Studies. And he’s also a thought leader on Student Career Development and the topic of employability. Marty was the Associate Director of Career Services with the John Hopkins University for many years, and is now the president of Global Career Compass. Marty, thank you so much for being here today.

Marty Tillman: It’s a pleasure to be here, Jennifer. Thanks for having me.

Jenn Viemont: So can you tell me a little bit about why you’re an advocate for International Studies? Why you think this is important?

Marty Tillman: Sure. I have been an advocate, maybe because I never had that experience growing up in New York City. In fact, I didn’t go abroad, in my circumstance, till I was 23 years old, as a tourist after college. And one thing or another, I think, because I had a fairly narrow experience growing up, when the opportunity, when the thoughts were there, in my own mind about what I was missing in my life, I was led through various circumstances, all happenstance, frankly, to learn about a graduate school in Vermont called the School for International Training in my late 20s. And as a result of my making that decision, purposely because as a part of the curriculum, I was able to get a free air ticket, the tuition that I had been working for a few years, so I was able to pay enough. And that was, it was a great experience. 

I went to India, stayed for six months there. And it was a very experientially based learning program. It really turned me around when it came back. I met them, I was in New York again, I happened upon meeting a couple who had found it a very, very important nonprofit, providing college American students and international students with an international experience in the 1930s. And they were mentors to me, introduced me to the field of International Ed. So, you know, one thing piled upon another as a career does unfold really, sometimes very purposely, sometimes by accident. And I really became completely enmeshed in a professional association called NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, which has 10,000 members in over 100 countries, and it’s over so for the last 40 years, I have been more than a fan, I’ve been a participant in many important changes in that field. I’ve led groups abroad, I have trained faculty, and staff who are working with American students interested in going abroad. And that’s, and now I’m retired for the past 10 years, I have my own company, and I’m involved in still very actively within this field.

Jenn Viemont: So it sounds like your own experience was so meaningful, that it really was a jumping off point for your career.

Marty Tillman: Yeah, and I know, you know, and my daughter studied abroad, that’s actually where she met her future husband. And later, I actually turned to her once upon a time, I said, did you really, did I in any way purposely influenced you? She said that “You and mom, both were. You didn’t have to say anything to me, it’s because of how you lead your life, you know, the experiences you had, the professional work you do. So I do, it was your expectation that I would, you know, have a similar experience.” And I do think there were family members, some members of extended family, who’ve had the privilege of, you know, traveling a bit and share the value in that very personal way, it’s very influential, has an influential impact on the young person, in terms of just thinking about leaving the United States.

Jenn Viemont: Absolutely. And having sort of that curiosity themselves that’s been kind of cultivated at home.

Marty Tillman: Yeah, and that’s a good word cultivate, to cultivate, or to curate, if you know, expert curating experience, bring things together. And in the way that families do that there is an obvious, I think, impact on the kinds of decisions that a young person will be led to think about.

Jenn Viemont: Absolutely. And just that it seems sort of the norm in my kids, because of Beyond the States, they’ve both grown up with us talking about colleges in Europe for many years. So when they decided to pursue that it wasn’t like this, you know, big decision, it was something that to them was just as normal as applying to an in-state school.

Marty Tillman: Absolutely. And things in Europe, I know that you’re dealing with European universities here. And the truth is with globalization, you know, of the economies of the world, the rapidity of that change in market engagement. European universities, which had not previously devoted many resources to having classes in English, around because it’s more Americans were in fact, becoming more mobile, they wanted to attract those students, that was new revenue for those institutions. So having more classes in English, knowing, unfortunately, knowing most American kids are not bilingual, most American kids grow up, you know, learning only English and don’t have an opportunity to develop a second language. So even in the easy languages, if you have French, German, etc, Italian maybe, they needed to have more opportunities to attract American students. So English language courses now are very common in most of the major European nations making it easier for Beyond the States to do what it does.

Jenn Viemont: Absolutely, absolutely. It’s amazing how many options there are, and it just keeps growing every year. So you know, there are so many studies about how so many students go to college intending to study abroad. And then when they start at the university, they end up graduating with a very small percentage actually doing study abroad programs from the US universities. So other than of course, you know, current COVID times which have affected study abroad programs. What do you think accounts for this?

Marty Tillman: Counting for the small number? Yeah, well, it’s been a pattern from the very beginning. When US students, when the first abroad programs in the United States were a junior year to go abroad. And from the outset, it was always a very, very privileged small number, usually of white women, overwhelmingly women, and that has stayed a pattern to it’s still to this day, mostly women who outnumber men in groups that go abroad. And I can tell you from the American side, for just a shorter term, semester abroad, typical study abroad programs. It’s a very, very small number of Americans Kids who do that. The numbers are not terribly accurate, but the usual estimates are that about 10% of the population enrolled in colleges and universities two and four year here, which it means about between 300, 350,000, maybe a little higher, only will go abroad for a study abroad time. And that’s out of an enrollment in any given year of 20 million American kids in college, 20 million out of 20 million and a year 10%, you know, maybe have this experience. 

So therefore, when I was thinking about talking with you, I’m thinking, boy to have a full four years or three years, whatever it might be abroad, is an incredible opportunity. It’s very rare for a US citizen, to have that many years of experience and exposure to studying outside the United States. And therefore, you know, what I would emphasize right now to whoever’s listening, is you got to have your child, think about what that means. For it to be that rare. You know, typically when they are interviewed in their senior year in college, for a job, or it’s right after graduation, if they’re having job interviews, if you will, when someone on a resume is going to see they spent that many years outside studying, you know, it will be a rare resume for that person to see. So the benefit right there at the outset, is enormous, you know, in terms of giving a student a strategic advantage, if you will, among other candidates, all of whom did well in, you know, in their studies, etc. But to have that overseas kind of experience and exposure for so long, will lead, I think anyone who’s interviewing, will lead them to make a lot of inferences about what that particular person knows, how they think, how they’ve grown, because of the intensity of being abroad for that length of time.

Jenn Viemont: Right and fully immersed for that length of time, too. So let’s talk about some of the research and those inferences that the employer might make seeing that. I know you’ve been involved in a lot of research around this and the benefits of having these international experiences. Can you tell me about what it says about the employability of students who do have the study abroad or these international experiences?

Marty Tillman: Yeah, and at the outset, I need to say that there’s no absolute cause and effect here. In other words, going abroad doesn’t inherently mean my child will be employed over some other child, you know, without question. It doesn’t work quite that easily. There’s a high correlation, you know, because of all of the things I’ll talk about, that give an advantage to the student who’s being interviewed for a particular position, yes. But I will say this, before I go ahead here, it’s always up to the student, the thing I would emphasize to listeners is if your child is going to have a very long time abroad, and given that it’s rare, and has a great deal of value, it’s still going to be up to your child to articulate that value in an interview, it’s not going to. So that you can’t just assume, because they have the experience, that by in and of itself, that will have much meaning for whoever is hiring manager, you know, they will still want to see, well, how does this person articulate what they learned? How do they articulate the benefit for them? How can they talk about what they’ve grown to understand more deeply? And the articulation of the benefits means everything. Okay, so that’s the front end. 

In the end, I’m jumping ahead because what I want to talk about is really, that what it’s important for families to understand, is there are things that employers value, inherently when they meet a candidate in terms of a young person coming out of college to interview for a position. So they know that they are well educated, they have a certain base of knowledge. Sometimes, of course, if the knowledge base, you know, if it’s in a STEM field, there are certain inferences directly to be made, if the course of study is aligned with the nature of the workplace. That doesn’t always happen. Not every student is going to take a job in the STEM field, you know? We still do have humanities majors in the United States and abroad, students will be learning things that are not of technical nature. So that’s one way to look at it. 

There are cognitive, social and personal skills, what used to be called soft skills. I, along with other colleagues, and we don’t like to use the term really soft, because they’re too important to be considered soft skills really. 

Jenn Viemont: I love that. What do you call it, then?

Marty Tillman: Yeah, maybe they’re harder. Maybe they’re hard skills, you know, it’s hard. It’s hard to be socially competent. It’s hard to be sensitive in the workplace, it’s hard to be, certainly it’s hard to speak a second language, if you will, it sort of downplays the importance of all of these skills to refer to them as soft. You know, my question, by comparison to what, I mean, what else would be more complicated, you know, than speaking a second language really. 

So then there’s the obvious thing about having increased cross-cultural sensitivity, and in particular, when you spend years abroad, and by virtue of being in Europe, say in the first place, the opportunities there, on weekends, or in breaks, get on that train, and you know, people are going to see other countries and so forth. And so the diversity of that experience can be very, very meaningful. There is a lot of literature and research you mentioned, yes, that does demonstrate that employers, if they’re doing business, especially in that global marketplace, they then would indeed value the person who was in front of them, who has these skills. 

Now, these days, of course, because of the increasingly quick emphasis in the last two years, even, on diversity, and inclusion issues in the workplace here, you know, having cross cultural sensitivity being able to work with others, are it’s a critical skill, it’s not merely soft, I think it’s a critical skill for a young person these days getting out of college. So I think that by itself, is it for employers now, a very important skill to find?

Jenn Viemont: So communicating with people who have a different background than you’re from being adaptable, what are some of these other concrete were to say that and so?

Marty Tillman: Well, you’ve named them and really, you know, you can go down the line, but those are very important. That adaptability, the ability to, I think most employers, again, are seeking to form consciously diverse sets of teams in their workplaces, hiring diversity here. If you can demonstrate that you have that kind of sensitivity, in the way you interact with individuals, it was always important, it’s become, I think, more important. And as I said, even a critical skill to have right now, in this time in the United States.

Jenn Viemont: Absolutely, absolutely. I’m thinking about some of the studies that I read, that you were connected to, in some way, shape, or form. And I’m trying to think of some of the others, like navigating unfamiliar circumstances being one of the skills that students gained when they spend time abroad. 

Marty Tillman: Yeah, I mean, especially okay, if the student, in the case of a student, with Beyond the States who’s considering going abroad, if it’s the first time for them to leave the United States. Clearly, there’s an immense learning curve, you know, and a growth curve there. Dealing with unfamiliarity, being on one zone, making crucial decisions day to day, week to week, in a foreign place outside of having the influence of family around you, immediately around you. Anyway, those are all critical learning sets right there. And testing yourself, certainly, in that way, for all the unexpected things that are more likely to happen when you’re away from home and outside the United States. All of that, I think there’s a very formative set of skills to develop and talk about, you know, being able to talk again, to talk about them in that way, in a really honest way, when you’re asked. And the trick of this is in interviews, you know, sometimes employers will ask very innocent questions. And one of the most innocent ones is, I see you “When you were studying abroad for your entire time you got your degree, so how was that?” I mean,  it’s not I don’t like that question. But, I mean, how was that like, was it great? Did you have a good time? I mean, all of these very lightweight questions can be thrown at you, sometimes intentionally, to see what you can do with that kind of question. Other times, frankly, because, and this there’s research about this, sometimes a hiring manager, even when a big company has an intent to find individual new employees within an international experience, but the particular hiring manager who’s conducting the interview, maybe that person has never been abroad. So they don’t really know how to ask questions that will elicit meaningful responses from someone, because they’ve never had that kind of quality experience away from home at all. And so sometimes that’s a disconnect. I mean, there’s evidence of that sometimes, you know.

Jenn Viemont: So it sounds like students should be prepared ahead of time in these interviews for any way that they can throw those skills in naturally, of course.

Marty Tillman: Well, here’s the thing about that, what I would suggest to listeners is making meaning of being away, should really begin from the day the student has gotten on the plane, and lands and so forth. It’s not something that you can easily sort of suddenly look back over your shoulder after a few years and say, “What happened to me here?”

It’s really, if we were talking about how to make meaning of domestic, a different kind of a domestic experience, you went to the University of California at Berkeley, you did a service learning trip, you know, in an inner city in Chicago, come back to campus, and the campus here has staff that are going to help you make meaning out of that experience, you have career service offices, you have a lot of free student affairs professionals who are going to help you talk through what just happened to you, right. But if you’re on your own, at a European institution, the truth is that many European institutions don’t have the same infrastructure, with free student affairs professionals to walk in and talk to, as you’re used to having here. 

I would say, from my direct knowledge, in certain countries, the Netherlands, the UK, one or two Scandinavian countries, Germany, Student Affairs has grown. And there is evidence, there are career services offices, in the selected countries in Europe, not everywhere, and not at every institution, necessarily, are they fully formed. But so my advice is, if your student is studying somewhere, and they have that, those kinds of staff, that they should spend time talking with them. They should, really, because they’re paying for that. And if you’re not getting it for free, while you’re in college, your family’s gonna have to pay for it maybe with an outside professional after you get back home. 

But you know, you want to have a student understand that they should be thinking about the impact of the experiences they’re having as it’s occurring to them. That could mean keeping a diary, some people like to write and do that sort of thing. Maybe it could even be an oral kind of oral diary done online, where you save that file over time for yourself to reflect back on, however that happens. It’s also really important, and this is where I come from in my own work. But it’s important actually, to help a student think through a little bit, as time goes on. Maybe not the first year, maybe not the second, but certainly by the third year, you know, well, just how do you see the connection between what you’ve been studying, what your interests are, with the kind of work you would like to think you would be a good fit for? So there are certain questions that can help that discussion take place. 

There’s a matrix for this, that I’ve used one is, so on the one column, the questions are like, well, what are your interests? What engages you? And then you asked, the follow up could be, well, what kinds of organizations reflect my interests? You know, and where are they located? Skill sets. What do I do? Well, what am I, what do I feel really confident about in terms of the skills that I’ve, that I possess, with or without, I’m learning as we speak now as I go along? And what kinds of job functions would allow me to shine in the work that I’d like to do? What kind of role would I like to play that fits with the kind of organization I’m interested in, you know, those should, it should fit together? 

And lastly, and this is really important for a young person, which is what makes work meaningful for me, you know, what am I looking to do? What kind of role would I like to play? Now increasingly, during the pandemic, you know, we know that there’s a lot been a lot of reflection about this question of the meaning of work, particularly because everyone was thrown out of work or displaced from work roles, typically, when we had to be locked up at home. And so that’s resulted in a great deal of turmoil in many ways in our society, as well as it’s happening in European society in the same certainly. There may be more interested in being entrepreneurial and having work take place, outside of a formal environment, so there’s more flexibility for a young person there. 

So I think going forward as we move further out of the pandemic, Life becomes a little bit more normalized. I think there’s likely to be more divergence from working, considering work in its usual format, that we knew it to be in 2019 and before that, right? I think it’s going to change. I don’t think that change now is temporary, I happen to feel that a lot of these changes about how we work is more permanent? I think. Yeah. So those are some questions, you know, and family can get involved in those questions. If they visit in Europe, you know, sit down and talk about these things, begin to have your child reflect on those things. See what they’re thinking, see how their thinking has changed over the time that they’re away, I would be shocked if a young person’s thinking didn’t change, frankly, so.

Jenn Viemont: I liked the idea of connecting the first one you noted and connecting the organizations that do that type of work, particularly because a lot of universities in Europe do allow for internships. And so to then get that hands-on experience, but really connecting those types of organizations, to your interests, to your strengths, to your values, I think is a great idea.

Marty Tillman: Yeah, it’s a good point to make. I mean, particularly in Germany, Germany has been a leader for a long, long time and apprenticeships, things were just catching up to that. We’re just now catching up to the idea of what’s called applied learning outside the classroom, if you will. It’s much more structured. In Germany, to some degree, also in the Scandinavian countries. I know the Netherlands very well. 

And so anyway, but internshipping is a form of experiential learning, which has great always has great value for the student. If a student who goes abroad through, you know, as a result of Beyond the States, if there’s an opportunity for even a short term internship to happen, I say go for it. I mean, there is absolutely no substitution. For the practical exposure you have. And now there’s a lot of debate, because of the absence of internships due to COVID with virtual internshipping, and I think I’m kind of an agnostic about that. I don’t think it has no value. I’m a little uncertain about how much value you get from being on a screen with colleagues, you know, and having dialogue through the screen that way. It has great limitations, I think, obvious limitations, but it’s what you have to work with, if you can’t be somewhere now. So I would say certainly there are different benefits from virtual intern shipping, then there are different benefits and if you’re live, but there’s definitely more benefits than if you had not had the experience. So, yes, in the bottom line, it’s certainly better than not trying to make it work and not trying to learn through it. Yeah, yeah.

Jenn Viemont: I was thinking about what you’re saying about, like Career Services in European universities. And it’s certainly true that many of the supplementary services in Europe are much different than in the US. And that’s one of the reasons, just the lack of the less overhead that tuition is more affordable. And then the other thing is that many, like if you’re going to a Dutch research university, the expectation is basically that you’re going to go straight for your masters, and so many of the career services are at that level. But what I think are cool, I was thinking about Toulouse Business School, for instance, they have something called the Career Starter Program. And first it was like, an optional thing is a really great development of soft skills and, oh, hard skills, and the like. And they noticed, you know, these 18 year old students just weren’t taking advantage of it. So they built it into the curriculum, which I think is awesome, you know, to have that is like a, it’s a class that they take all through the three years, or B- University has some of that built into their curriculum, even at the bachelors level too. And it might be something that, you know, I talked to a lot of students about what to look for when they’re looking for a university and having those resources to help them might be one of those factors to evaluate.

Marty Tillman: Yes, no question about that. I mean, it could be a staff person, if it happens that a faculty member is prone to, you know, spending time talking with a student, it shouldn’t be discounted at all. But yes, and the point being that students should definitely be encouraged to have meaning, purposeful conversation and dialogue about what they’re going through, what their interests are, again, what their values are, what kind of work might they like to do? I mean, how do they see what they’re studying now, having promise to fulfilling some of their professional aspirations? Now, and again, I want to emphasize if a student can’t get that far, it’s okay. It’s really, It’s okay. You know, I, the last thing I think any young person should feel is guilt about simply saying, I don’t know yet.

Jenn Viemont: Right, right.

Marty Tillman: I don’t know, I understand what you’re asking of me. I don’t know what I don’t have the answer right. Now, I’m still puzzling about it, I’m still thinking through, you know, and so forth. And that’s all right, you know.

Jenn Viemont: So, you know, we have a lot of listeners, and a lot of families who, you know, are very excited by international experiences. But for one reason or another, don’t end up doing the full degree option in Europe and hope to do study abroad in the US. 

I have a brother who’s 20 years younger than me, who did a Study Abroad Program. And it seems like a bubble, you know, he, the classes he went to weren’t at a European university, it was, you know, the kind of this bubble for the Study Abroad kids, they all live together. You know, all the Americans kids live together. And to me, it felt almost like a long term tourist. What should they look for when they’re looking for study abroad programs,?

Marty Tillman: Well if they’re, you know, if they have the opportunity to choose, and they’re on a campus, I think, well, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation, really, what I’d say is, you need to have, you need to ask about all the options. You need to sit down with someone in a Study Abroad office, or you know, and talk over. “Here’s the length of time I think I’d like to go or I can afford to go, I’m interested in these countries or this particular country, here’s what I’m, here’s my major, this is what I, you know, kind of like to pursue,” etc, and have a dialogue about what options do exist. Some students, there are enough different styles of going abroad and studying different program opportunities to match a lot of different interests.

You know, my daughter happened to go abroad with a program called the College Year in Athens, it’s been around for many, many decades. And the students who were in Athens, she lived in an apartment, you know, in the community, in the neighborhood in Athens, somewhere, the whole time. They came together in class. But they weren’t, in that case, they were not at a university as such, they had their own faculty, the program did. So that was good for him. She loved it, you know, and but there are lots of different styles. If it’s not, if it’s a private program like that, as opposed to a faculty, what’s called a faculty led program, so it’s connected to the university curriculum directly. Again, all these options are out there, you just have to talk it over. They all have that. I think the, again, the important thing is to align the type of program with the type of person that’s participating in that program. You know,, some programs demand more independence, and others would provide more structure. You know, what type of student are we really talking about?

Jenn Viemont: So there was a study you were involved in from 2017, that I mentioned to you that I cite all the time. I’m surprised I don’t have a t-shirt with it, with some of the findings on it. I’m always talking about it, and it talks about how these international experiences lead to an impact not only on job offers, but also career advancement. And I recognize that since it came out in 2017, it’s a little bit out of date. But is there any reason to believe that this would no longer be the case, that this would have changed?

Marty Tillman: Yeah. It’s a great question. I mean, the study, you’re referring to the research for that report, probably was taking place in 2016. So it’s like five years out? Well, yes. COVID, I mean, I don’t know if COVID has changed the dynamics of doing research about this completely. It’s sort of as if there’s a big black hole, suddenly, you know, there was the time before COVID, when everyone was making assumptions about international education and all of the issues surrounding that, and now here we are, for the past two years, two academic years. Has it been two? And that’s this one is the third if this is the third one, yes? 

Jenn Viemont: Yeah. Because it started the March of 20 – Yeah, this is the third academic year. It would have been spring of, yeah.

Marty Tillman: I haven’t even calculated that. Wow. So there’s a lot there is a lot. It is kind of a black hole. And however, your question, while there hasn’t been any new work that I’ve read that has come out since COVID, or asked and is trying to answer the question, “Does international experience have the same impact it did before?” Actually, I wrote myself a rhetorical question before coming to the interview today, asking myself that, you know, I was talking saying, “Okay, so did everything I write about pre-2019, did everything I blogged about, is that gone? Should I just erase it, wipe it away? Start fresh?” You know? And the answer is, I hope that many of the assumptions that we’ve made about the impact of having an actual experience will continue to hold true. I happen to think that there’s no reason to believe that would not be so precisely, because it’s not like you can sort of erase globalization as a phenomenon in the world community. It can be halted just like the supply chain is halted right now, where every family’s experiencing that issue. Suddenly, people know what the words supply chain means.

Jenn Viemont: Yes, I have a crate full of belongings still in Portugal, so I certainly know, supply chain.

Marty Tillman: So we’re learning new things. But things are going to slow down in the field of international. They have already slowed down in the field of international education. The reason for that is unfortunately, many, many US institutions, were immediately forced to lay off staff and in some cases close down their international programs. And it’s particularly true if they were small, if they had one or two staff only. And they didn’t really send that many students abroad. They didn’t really recruit many international students to study on their campus. And Vice President, Vice Provost, the President sat down, big budget planning meeting, you know, we are going to be down this amount of money now. And how can we save money? Oh, well, let’s get rid of the international office suite. It’s not really, you know, maybe we can pick it up again, in a few years. 

A lot of colleagues of mine were laid off and furloughed. You know, there have been estimates that quite an 1000s of many 1000s on campuses were furloughed or laid off due to the economic impacts of COVID. And there are new jobs right now, this beginning of this academic year are coming back in many cases. In many cases, however, they’re junior positions, they’re not mid or senior level positions. So it’s unknown, really, yet what the real impact on international education here in the US is, I think, except to say the obvious. Unfortunately, for example, it’ll be a long time before people get students, undergrads who are going to study in Africa. And the obvious reason is, Africa has just a handful percentage wise, of their population unvaccinated. It’s terrible. It’s, it’s so unfair, it’s unethical, all of those things. And so therefore, research and student mobility, it’s really come to a complete halt in a place like Africa, the continent of Africa. 

So there, I think many of us fear that isn’t that the universe of student mobility, you know, having this free exchange, for a while, it’s going to be very limited to countries in the world where the vaccination rate is high, where the borders are open and safety, because there’s always a safety and security issue, when you’re talking about students leaving home for any reason. And, you know, any program, whether it’s a private program, presume it’s got to assess risk, because there’s always liability involved if something goes wrong. And what that’s going to mean, I think, is an unfortunate bifurcation of the flow of American students abroad. You know,

Jenn Viemont: Interesting, well, no, because the other the other issue there, I guess, is that even if a school said, “Okay, we’re going to let you do study abroad.” With the different COVID restrictions over the last couple of years, unless you have a student visa, you know, there have been travel restrictions. So fortunately, our Beyond the States members, they all have their student visas, even those who are getting their visas after they got there. They had the documentation, and we’re all able to get there. Which is I was thinking, I mean, the degree students who are abroad over these next few years will be even more rare when employers are looking at resumes and see somebody who had this international experience over the last few years comparing it to other students. So I guess it’s a I don’t know. I mean, there’s a lot of downside, just in terms of the world picture of it. But in a smaller view, it’s good for our graduates.

Marty Tillman: I agree. I agree completely. I want to just return for a second to the direct question you were asking about that research work I participated in. There’s been a lot, it wasn’t just that one report. But for the past 5 to 10 years, there has there been a lot of studies about the career impacts of international experience. I’ve commented a lot on that, I’ve been involved in many of those things. And I just want to say, unequivocally, there is a career benefit, a career impact, it’s no question about it for me. And I think, as I was saying a few minutes ago, though, it’s really up to the student, it’s got to be discussed with the student, as to the importance of what they’re about to undertake, and so that they can reflect clearly on a set of questions as they’re moving through being abroad. And they need to not minimize the potential impact on their career, on their choice of job, you know, and I would say, it’s okay, if the student can’t quite make the fit, if they’re not able to make it, see it clearly. Right now in their life, because I have known studies which show that the career impact can happen many, many years later, after graduation. An example is a student, a student who went abroad. Now he’s working five to seven years at a company, let’s say it’s a private business. And that business does work outside the US, they’re opening a new office in Spain and Barcelona, that particular students studied abroad or hadn’t deep experience in Spain, in Barcelona, they speak, they still can speak moderately good Spanish. And so, they’re at a staff meeting, and there’s an announcement, we’re opening this new office, in a few months in Barcelona, we’ll be looking to staff it up. So if you think you have certain experience, that would be a good fit for it, why don’t you come in, let me know? Hopefully, that student is going to think to themselves, hey, maybe this is an opportunity and waiting for me. So it can happen that you never might know when, you know, your career could be infected, by the fact that you had the international experience when you were younger.

Jenn Viemont: It’s a really good point. And you had a lot of, I was reading the guide you put together for the AIFT. AIFS, the Student Guide to Study Abroad and Career Development. And you got some great suggestions to show students how they can communicate these skills, and how to kind of be on the lookout for these opportunities. And the skills, you know, communicating through interviews, or resumes or cover letters. And you’ve had some good suggestions through this interview here too. But I was wondering if you had to just say what your top two concrete tips you would give students as to how they could, let’s even just say communicate some of those important skills that employers are looking for that they achieved through this experience in either their resume or cover letter?

Marty Tillman: Right. Well, I guess number one, for me, would be hopefully the student is spending a lot of time abroad is in fact, if it’s in an in maybe an English speaking class. But the country that they live in, is obviously going to have other language opportunities. If they’re able to improve their linguistic competency, there’s no question that having greater ability to speak a second language. And I’m not necessarily talking about being fluent in it. You know, but if you have the ability, the capacity to start at a decent level speaking in a second language, and therefore have the interest in even becoming more fluent, I would say that’s at the top of my list.

Jenn Viemont: That’s a great suggestion, even if it’s just A2 level. To say I have A2 level in check is something that would stand out.

Marty Tillman: It would,it would. And secondly, I think in light of circumstances we’re living with, as I said earlier, the development of improved intercultural sensitivity, cross cultural understanding, the sensitivity that goes, that’s wrapped around all of that kind of skill set is, is definitely important, you know, definitely is meaningful. So how you can showcase that is by coming up with certain incidents that you were involved with, while you’re abroad, which showcase how you handle this situation. So I think, you know, that interpersonal skill set that comes from having an in depth experience abroad is unquestionably important. So, I guess those are two, really, that I would highlight, they’re both very possible for any student abroad, to invest themselves in, and to focus on, to improve upon. And the key there is, before leaving the United States to think about it. To say, “I want to do this. My intention is to be a better speaker, or French.” Or, you know, “I’m a shy person, and I intend to seek out opportunities to be more outgoing, to be more engaged with people when I’m in the country.” You know, and to challenge myself so that I am forced to interact, in an outward sense, you know, with people that I meet, and so forth.

Jenn Viemont: Yeah, it’s really, and I think maybe being intentional about gaining insights, like I’m thinking about these, the English taught degree programs in Europe. I know, you know, this. For our listeners, you know, they’re made up of students from all around the world, you know, you might be the only American in a class that has students from China, and India, and Africa, and all around Europe, and just everywhere. So not only is that really cool when you’re talking about global issues, be it politics, or history, or whatever else, because you have this perspective from all these different people. But also, you are learning when you’re working in groups with students, you’re learning about different cultural norms around. You know, how to delegate or accept responsibility, or, you know, showing up at a certain time for meetings, and learning all of that it’s just so valuable. But when you’re 18, you’re only, I think, you’re only, not only, but you’re more likely to recognize that value, if you’re intentional about looking for it. Does that make sense?

Marty Tillman: Make sense to me. I mean, in a lot of the workshops I have given, I mean, it’s all about acting purposely, acting with intention if you want to get from here to there. You know? It’s true that sometimes things happen to us in a happenstance kind of way, unexpectedly, we all have had those experiences, certainly. You know? And they’re very unplanned for. And sometimes we learn even more from those unplanned experiences. But in the case, in the context of what we’re really been talking about here, and the value added of having a meaningful, in depth experience of studying abroad, it’s really unfortunate to not start that experience without reflecting in a purposeful way about what you want to do what you want to learn, apart from what you’re obviously going to learn in the classroom. That’s not what I’m referring to, you know.

Jenn Viemont: Right, right, not the topic, the subject material. Well, Marty, this has been so incredibly helpful, and you have so many resources out there that are really going to help our listeners. We’re going to have all of them in our show notes from your blog, to the guide we talked about, and a number of the other studies you’ve been involved in. And I just really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today about this.

Marty Tillman: No, it’s been my pleasure. I would say this AIFS Student Guide to Study Abroad and Career Development is online and freely downloadable. And I wrote that with the intention in a very purposeful way to be read by students. And to be honest, it took a lot more time to write it in a voice that I thought would be meaningful for a student to read about it. And it’s really been out now, the revision was in 2015. Even before that, when it first came out, it was up on a lot of career service websites. It’s cited in a lot of different ways. So I appreciate that you’re referencing it here. I still think that yeah, that framework that in that little guide, can be helpful. 

And that last thing I would say is that a student should talk both within their family and to others about what they’re thinking about doing. Ask other people, you know, it’s a great thing to ask someone. “Is knowing what you know now, from your earlier experience abroad, what would you have done differently?” That’s always, always a great question to ask someone, because we all have hindsight. It’s 2020, you know? Go, “Oh, gee, if I only knew that, you know, I would have done this differently at the beginning of the experience I had, and so forth.” So that’s a good thing to just talk about, whether it’s a peer or an older adult, someone else who’s had experience with Beyond the States, you know, whatever it might be. Including family members, you know, talking with other family members, about things they might have done differently, knowing what happened to their child during the time they were abroad, you know, whatever it might be. 

Jenn Viemont: Well, thank you so much. And I look forward to reading more work done by you or that you’re involved in. 

Marty Tillman: Yeah. Thanks very much. I appreciate it, Jennifer. Good to be here. 

Jenn Viemont: Thank you!

So you probably know that we recently moved back to the US after spending two years abroad. Though I hated commercials when we lived here before, I’m kind of enjoying them now. What I love are the rollback specials that car lots and the like have usually at the beginning of the year, they’re just so cheesy, and I love it. So we’re offering a rollback special this month as well. We’re rolling back our membership prices back to 2020 prices. So join now and lock in your monthly membership for just $49 a month, for the life of your membership. So you keep saving month after month after month. This discount is available through the end of January. So act now to lock in your savings.