How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?
Marketa: Cultures around the world are more interconnected than ever before and this includes students who are studying abroad. Over the next ten years the study abroad industry will continue to expand; students will come from an even greater range of countries and will chose to study in an expanding range of destinations. Students choose to go abroad for many reasons; some want to improve language skills, while others want to completely immerse themselves in another culture. In the future the numbers of students looking for a more specialized experience, which directly relates to their field of study or future career, will increase.
Which study abroad destination is most underrated?
Marketa: “You get out of it what you put into it,” the saying goes. This is holds true in study abroad, and so whether a study abroad experience is overrated or underrated lies completely with the student! The most important thing is for students to identify their expectations and choose a destination as well as a program that promises to best meet them. For those who wish to experience complete cultural immersion and are willing to forgo domestic familiarities, Asia, the Middle East and Africa have a lot to offer. The traditional European destinations still have plenty cultural diversity, but one may have to get away from the beaten path a bit to experience complete immersion. Prague is unique because one can access the best of both; there is plenty of western comfort as well as the opportunity for complete immersion, provided one can speak the language.
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
Marketa: If the eyes are the windows into one’s soul, then language is the window into a culture. There are two reasons for learning the local language. First, it’s crucial if one wants to obtain more than a superficial understanding of the culture; often it is the phrases and concepts that cannot be translated well into one’s native language that provide the most insight into the foreign culture! The second reason is much more practical and self serving; people need to be able to understand and interact with the world around them in order to maintain their independence. Spending an extended period of time in a country where one has to rely on others for simple, daily tasks can knock one’s confidence and in even lead to depression. The sense of accomplishment one gets by mastering the day to day task in a foreign culture is very valuable.
What changes would you make to the study abroad industry?
Marketa: As more students from more countries than ever before are choosing to study abroad, a wealth of exciting opportunities exist for universities as well as for study abroad providers to expand, diversify, and specialize their programs. Students may require more from their program beyond a cultural immersion, which is already a valuable experience on its own. However more options in location, field of study, possibilities to study with a greater variety of other nationalities, as well as experiences students can use in their later professional careers allows students to be more selective.