Studying Russian became a very popular request.
As the world was settling into the post-war generation, there were increased opportunities for education abroad. With political support for study abroad as a means for increasing world peace, programs developed rapidly, with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) leading the pack.
As early as 1951, two large organizations with similar meanings, Council on Student Travel and Council on Correlation of International Educational Enterprises, came together to form what we know today as CIEE. Drawn by US foreign policy initiatives, CIEE did their part to contribute to increased global understanding by facilitating overseas travel organized by ship travel. To Europe alone, the Council sent 4,000 students annually. There was a slight dip in the numbers once the ships were redirected for the Korean War, but the Council did not give up - they instead commissioned personal vessels from Europe, and still maintained the most popular study abroad programs in Europe.
In 1954, the Institute of International Education (IIE) published its first Open Doors report, an influential document that has since been published annually. The Open Doors report serves as a great resource for academics, the government, educational councils, and even Go Overseas readers (i.e. YOU!)
While Europe remained the ever-popular destination of choice, the 1950s and 1960s saw an increase in interest in non-European areas, such as Africa, Asia, and South America. Japan was of particular interest, and many efforts were made to create a base organization there to promote study abroad. Because of difficulties within the Tokyo bureaucracy, it was many years before the program could be fully fleshed out.
Critics pointed out not only the lack of diversity within overseas program options, but also the nature of the programs themselves. The usefulness, or benefits of a study abroad experience, were challenged nationally. The public argued that the programs did not help adequately prepare students for their experiences overseas, thus undermining their learning potential and reducing the positive impacts the students would have on society after their return.
These criticisms were taken to heart, and future programs were designed to place a greater emphasis on exposing students to the target culture as much as possible. President Eisenhower and the federal government vehemently supported the result: the 1960s National Defense Education Act. In the 1960s, reports indicate that as many as 16% of all secondary education students were enrolled in foreign language study (the current proportion is somewhere around half of that).
Even the Vietnam War couldn't stop study abroad!
Despite the uphill battle, the next 20 years saw a decrease in the enrollment numbers for study abroad programs. The governments of the 1970s and 1980s did not make international education a high priority, and interest in the field declined. The only proposed long-term effort to increase study abroad opportunities was forged in the International Education Act (IEA); while this act did pass, the funding for study abroad never came to its full fruition as it was later re-allocated to help finance the war efforts in Vietnam.
The Cold War further complicated the availability and emphasis on study abroad programs in the post-World War decades. However, many universities felt strongly drawn to programs in Russia; despite the political situation, CIEE began establishing ties with universities in Moscow to create the first ever Russian language program abroad. This program flourished until the break up of the USSR in the late-1980s, which allowed CIEE to "expand its exchange... and study abroad [programs] to the world which had been hidden behind the Iron Curtain for more than seventy years."
The Cold War challenged the US's previous understandings of international relationships and motivated citizens to be more informed technologically, economically, environmentally, and politically. As a result, passionate Americans interested in international affairs flooded the study abroad market. Campaigning politicians began touting the virtues of expertise in subjects critical to US national security, such as languages. In 1991, the David L. Boren federal grant and scholarship program was instituted in light of the aggressive need for an increased presence abroad.
Student exchange did not solve the world's problems, but it played a real role in creating a more world-minded outlook on the part of the post-war generation. This reduction of national bias also served to allow this generation to focus on certain crucial problems that cut across national boundaries.
-- CIEE 1977 Annual Report
While study abroad in the latter half of the 20th century may have fallen victim to war through loss of funding and decreased attention, the field did not completely die out. #Didyouknow: the number of students studying abroad increased five-fold between the 1990s and today. Find out more about the numbers in our next (and final) installment!
Photos courtesy of expertinfantry and Cavin.