The White House Travel Blogger Summit

The White House Travel Blogger Summit


Fran Luba: Hi everyone. Welcome again to the White
House Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and
Global Citizenship. It’s been an
exciting morning. You’re learning the best
part of the White House, which is the access and
getting through waves. But we’re happy to have
you and it has been really an honor to put
this all together. I feel like I know all
of you after reading all of your blogs and learning
about how you feel about travel and inspiring youth
and there’s no one better to talk about
inspiring youth. Around these
parts we call him “the inspirer
of dreamers.” He has a certain affinity
for a country named Burma and he is the
Assistant to the President and Deputy National
Security Adviser for Strategic Communications
and Speechwriting. (laughter) Out of memory. (laughter) He’s also my boss and
he’s amazing: Ben Rhodes. (applause) Ben Rhodes:
Thanks, thanks everybody for being here
and sorry for the inevitable
delays getting in. Nobody has called me
the inspirer of youth — (laughter) — before. I just want that
to be clear. (laughter) –although I had the experience
of aging in this job, which has taken me
out of my youth. But we’re really glad that you
all could be here for what is a unique event and I
do want to thank Fran for pulling all
this together. This is really her vision
but it’s entirely consistent with a policy that President
Obama has pursued in office, which he summed up in his State
of the Union when he said earlier this year that
“expanding cultural and educational exchanges
among young people is really a cornerstone
of our effort to engage people around
the world.” I know we’re particularly
focused on opportunities for Americans to study
abroad, to volunteer abroad. I myself was shaped
by that experience as I know many
of you were. I studied abroad
in Paris which, in U.S. government
terminology, wasn’t exactly a hardship post. (laughter) I had a lot of fun but I also,
you know, learned something about myself and about
other people that I could not have learned anywhere
in the United States and it helped shape who I
am and the perspective that I’ve brought to
everything I’ve done since. And I think, as we came
into office and looked at this question of how
America engages in the world, what we’ve been
steadily focused on for the last six years
is trying to broaden the scope for engagement
between the United States and government and people
around the world and, frankly, we started from
a position of, I think, recognizing that we have
to catch up because people around the world engage
each other in so many different ways with travel
being much easier than it was even 10 or 20 years
ago, where social media and other types
of networks that are forming
organically. And I think what we’re
seeking to tap into is the fact that, for the
United States to truly thrive and for our people to thrive
in a globalized world, we can’t just rely on the
traditional government to government contacts,
business contacts or even just traditional exchange
programs; that we really need to get out of that
comfort zone because, frankly, the engagements
that are going to shape perceptions of the
United States and shape the experiences of
the American people are largely the ones that
are going to take place outside of embassies
and consulates. It’s going to be out
in volunteer programs and educational exchange
programs where Americans are shaping the
perception of our country by the people
they’re engaging. But Americans themselves
are being shaped by those
experiences. Fran mentioned Burma
where there’s been this historic opening, in terms of
our diplomatic relations, but in one of my trips there
what I was most struck by is the American
Center where we have young people teaching
English and doing other educational
programs. We could not literally
facilitate the number of people who wanted to be
in those classrooms and, again, not only is that
transforming the lives of people who are getting
access to information that they wouldn’t otherwise
have, it’s transforming the lives of the Americans
who are doing those programs, who are getting
an experience that is truly unique. So the first principle
that I want to just put forward is we want to
broaden the way in which we’re engaging people
around the world in every way possible and you all
have ideas, I think, to share about how to get
more Americans overseas, how to get more Americans
traveling and studying abroad and I think
that’s part of what’s so valuable
about today. Because what we hear from
you is going to be helpful to us as we design our
programs and policies. The other thing, and I’ll
speak to some of those specific policies in a
moment; the other thing I really want to hit the top
of this though is the fact that we’re seeking to
broaden and diversify the engagements that
Americans have regionally around the world. I am kind of the standard
person who went off to Europe with a Europass
and had a good exchange program and traveled
the European cities. I know a lot of Americans
increasingly are going to places like China
where they see a future in the private
sector. But the fact of the matter
is it’s a big world and it’s an easy — it’s much
easier to access the world today than it was in the
past and the entire world, as we see, (inaudible)
remarkable economic development and growth
is going to be far more relevant to the
experiences of Americans than it was 50 years ago. So we have prioritized
in our exchange programs and in our engagement programs
sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin
America; really emerging, dynamic regions that
haven’t always been the destination for a broad
number of Americans who are looking to study
or volunteer abroad. But we really want to
raise awareness of how dynamic these places are,
how much opportunity there is for Americans in their
future lives, in their private sector careers or
in their public service careers to be engaged
in these regions. So, again, the two
principles that I want to just lay down at the
beginning of this conversation that we’re
having today is, number one, how do we get more
Americans engaged overseas in shaping our own
programs out of the U.S. government and also how
do we make sure that we’re looking at the whole
world, including emerging and developing regions, as
well as the traditional destinations for American
travel, tourism, and study abroad? I’ll just speak to a
number of initiatives that I think highlight
what we’re trying to do. One is the Young
Leaders Programs that we’ve launched. The Young African Leaders
Program is an initiative that we launched in
sub-Saharan Africa designed to tap into the
fact that there’s an enormous youth bulge in
Africa; huge populations of people who are
under 25 years old. And every single African
country is a part of this
program. They have a network of
people that is over 50,000 who are
connected virtually. We have an exchange
program where we bring several hundred Africans
here to the United States for mentorship, executive
leadership training, and professional
opportunities and they’re able to engage
with Americans. And we want to connect
Americans who are going to Africa with this growing
network of very impressive young Africans who
are participating in engaging with the U.S.
government in this way. We’ve recently
broadened that to a Young Southeast Asian
Leaders Program that is in the 10 ASEAN countries
of Southeast Asia, recognizing there too that
we have an enormous youth bulge that we want to tap
into and forge relationships. There’s a program that
we’ve been very invested in the Americas
called 100,000 Strong in the Americas and what we
did with this program is we looked at study abroad
in terms of Americans studying in Latin America
and Latin Americans studying in the
United States and the numbers
were minuscule. Given the bilingual nature
of our society and given how much commerce and
education and science crosses the border to our
south, we wanted to hit the number of 100,000
Americans traveling and studying abroad, I
should say, in Latin America and 100,000 Latin American
students coming here to the United States and
we’ve steadily built up those numbers
toward that goal. Another program I’d
highlight as us trying to find nontraditional ways
of connecting Americans to others overseas is The
Chris Stevens Initiative. Chris Stevens, as you
know, was the ambassador who tragically lost his
life in the Benghazi attacks but he had worked
his whole life in the Middle East and
North Africa. And what we’re creating
is a virtual exchange program, recognizing that
these are, in some cases, dangerous environments
where you’re not going to have the
ability to have the study abroad
experience. We can leverage technology
to connect potentially millions of people through
online exchanges and this is a new area of travel
and exchange where I think we also want to hear your
ideas about how we can use technology to connect
Americans here in the United States to
individuals around the world who they wouldn’t
otherwise have a connection with; that they
can learn from and forge connections with. So these are the types of
programs that we’re trying to do that go beyond
traditional scholarships and exchange programs but
that promote Americans going overseas or other
people here coming here to the United States,
through either technology or other
networks that the U.S. government
can forge. The Peace Corps has really
tried to go out of its way to align its volunteer
opportunities with these emerging regions and
I know you have the Peace Corps director
here later today. She has done some
extraordinary things in broadening the way in
which people can apply to the Peace Corps. You can now specify, for
instance, where you’d like to go, which can make it a
more attractive option for people. Rather than just being
plunked down somewhere at random, there’s an
ability for people to say, “I want to be in this
country, this region,” and shape their Peace
Corps experience. We’ve already seen
that dramatically lead to an increase in Peace
Corps volunteers, which is something that’s very
important as we, again, seek to broaden the
aperture in U.S. engagement
around the world. So this is something
that we’re putting a lot of resources into and we’re
doing it, again, not just out of some
altruism. We believe it’s in
America’s interests that to keep up in today’s
world, to prepare young people to succeed their
education abroad, their contacts abroad, their
knowledge of foreign languages and
cultures; that’s going to be an asset that they’re
going to carry with them throughout their
entire lives. Similarly, if we are
engaging young people overseas those are
relationships that are going to benefit
us as a country. Whether or not those
people become leaders in government or industry in
their countries those are going to be important
contacts for us. When we saw, for instance,
so many protests taking place in the Arab world
beginning in 2011 oftentimes they were young
people participating who we might not know from
our traditional embassy engagements but who
we did know because of an exchange program
because they had participated in a U.S.
sponsored exchange program, because they had a contact
with somebody that they had met through an
entrepreneurship program. The more we’re broadening
the way in which we’re engaging societies abroad
the more we’re going to get to know the future
leaders of tomorrow in countries, particularly
as countries become more democratic,
going forward. We recognize
that this is not a U.S. government effort
alone and, in some cases, it shouldn’t be a U.S.
government led effort. These need to be
truly public/private partnerships to attract
more people, to be more entrepreneurial; not that
the federal government isn’t a very nimble entity
–(laughter) — but often the best ideas come from
universities, NGOs, businesses that are
starting to take on a bigger footprint in
some of these countries and, in some cases, individuals
I think who have the best understanding of the
texture of what’s taking place in different
parts of the world. But the U.S. government can be
a convener as we are today. We can bring people
together around an idea, whether that’s building
out an exchange program at a university, whether
or not that’s finding internship opportunities
for people who want to work overseas or whether
or not that’s getting behind development in
philanthropic work with what USAID can do. There’s a lot of
ways in which the United States government
can plug into good ideas that are happening, good
networks that are being built overseas and that’s
what we want to continue to do and, again, I think
that can be an important focus here today. So what we want to do is
figure out in talking to you where can we make
the most difference? Where should we be looking
regionally at expanded exchanges, expanded
education overseas? What types of partnerships
can be forged outside of
government? You know, all of you I
think will have good ideas about how to do that. The other thing though
that we want to I think focus on today is how
we can raise awareness for Americans of the
opportunity and the value of travel
and study abroad. You know, because
often times it’s kind of by chance,
you know. Think back at your life
at how coincidental it is that something
happened that might have changed the course
of your life. You happened to have a
teacher who pulled you aside and said, “hey,
have you ever thought of studying abroad?” Or you may have had
someone in your family who came from another country
who recommended that you pursue travel or an
interest in that country. You know, that’s a chance
that some of us had but it’s a chance that
everybody should have and that includes people who
come from less privileged backgrounds, people who
might think that this is out of their reach,
people who might think that they’re not in the
income bracket. “Oh, study abroad. That’s for someone who
has a lot of money. That’s for someone whose
parents travel with them overseas to
Europe.” That’s not the message
that we want to convey. We want all Americans,
whether they’re at our best universities or
whether they’re at any of our schools across the
country or whether they’re at community colleges,
which increasingly have links
overseas. We want all Americans
to recognize that there is a value in
studying abroad. There’s a value in
engaging people around the world. There’s a value
personally. There’s also a value
professionally and there are resources available
to them and I think often times people don’t
recognize the resources that they can tap
into, both from the U.S. government and
from the private sector, to facilitate that type of
experience that can have a profound impact on the
rest of their lives. You know, I’ll, you know,
I’ll just close by saying that I was recently
in Indiana and I was speaking at a
number of schools. I spoke at Indiana State
University and what was interesting is there was
a significant number of students who were
from the Middle East who were
studying there. You would not expect
in Terre Haute, Indiana there to be this
large a population of students from the Middle
East but there’s just been a history of exchanges
at this particular school and the guy who was
showing me around; he was an immigrant himself
and he was telling the story of a young Muslim who had
traveled on this exchange program and Terre Haute is a
very religious community. It’s a very predominantly
Christian community and this young exchange
student went to each of the churches in town
and spoke at the churches about her experience as a
Muslim and about Islam and some of those
went quite well. Some of them, you know,
there were very strong, passionate debates. But that changed
that community. You hear the same
thing about Americans and experiences they have
when they study abroad that when they go — when
I went to Malaysia, for instance, I met with
a number of teachers who were teaching English out
in villages in Malaysia and I met with a group of
them and their students. And the Americans spoke
about how this experience of teaching in Malaysian
villages had transformed their own life; that
it broadened their perspective, that it
showed them something about the world that was
going to be relevant to whatever they
did in their lives. But also I spoke to the
students there and they said it transformed their
view of America; that they had never thought of
America as anything other than, you know, a war in
the Middle East or a drone and then suddenly these
young people are there and they’re excited and
they’re dynamic and they’re kind and generous
and they’re suddenly seeing America in an
entirely different light. You know, that’s the type
of value that you can only get through these type of
exchange programs and I’ll never forget that I asked
each of the students what they were going to
remember about their experience with these
teachers who were, you know, 22, 23 years old
and there was one kid who had previously said that
he was kind of angry. He had been
a teenager. He was in difficult
circumstances and this teacher made a huge impact
on his life and when I said, “what are you going
to most remember about this experience,” he said,
“I’m going to remember Kathy’s
(spelled phonetically) smile.” You know, and that’s the type
of contact that can only come from people getting out of
their comfort zone and going to a place that they
never thought they’d go to and having that
type of experience. So, you all I think
provide enormous insight into what types of
connections can be forged around the world. You all have your finger
on the pulse of things that we, frankly, can’t
do from here so we want to make sure that we’re
hearing from you as we’re thinking through our
own approaches but also we want to make sure
you’re hearing from people in the U.S.
government who are doing different
things in this space because, again, that
may prompt a connection that might not have
occurred to either of us, heading into today. So, thank you
for being here. I believe Evan is speaking
next so everything is about to
get better — (laughter) — as I hand this over
to a very talented and important and
lovely person. So, thank you. (applause) Fran Luba:
So, just before we hear from Assistant
Secretary Evan Ryan, we have another surprise
guest from the West Wing; another great personality:
Denis McDonough who is the Chief of Staff and
the President’s right hand. (applause) Denis McDonough:
All right, hello everybody. I want to just
say two things. Then I’m going to
take three questions. One is to say thank
you for coming down, as evidenced by
my friend Rob Pensmarker
(spelled phonetically), who came down
from New York. We’re really grateful for
the fact that you’ve taken time out of your busy
schedules to come down. That’s one. Two, what you do is
indelibly adding to the national
interests every day. Ben has just enunciated
a series of reasons why that’s the case. I see it every day
in what I do; the people we hire in the
United States government, and the economic impact of
travel and study abroad having on not only
the economy today but our economic
competitiveness over time and I know you’ve been getting
those numbers from some of the folks that have
come back to you during the course of this
period but let me just underscore that again. And third is that our hope
is simply that you leave here mindful of the
fact that the President and all of his team and
Secretary Carey and Evan and her team really
appreciate what you’re doing. We are able to better
influence world events because of what you’re doing and we
hope that that adds even additional enthusiasm for
you and for your teams in what you’re doing as
a matter of course. The rest of my remarks:
I’m going to assume that you can incorporate into
the record and — (laughter) — why don’t I, why don’t I
take a couple of questions and I’ll get out
of your hair? Just one thing is there’s
no hand around mic so it may not be
— you may just have to elevate your
voice, so to speak. So, any questions? Male Speaker:
Where did you study abroad? Denis McDonough:
I studied abroad in Spain in 1991;
fascinating time. The United States was,
as you’ll recall, under the leadership of President
Bush and Secretary Baker, gearing up for and then
carrying out the war to liberate
Kuwait. I remember at the
time being fascinated and also being very confused
and trying to understand the Spanish newspapers;
what was going on. But it gave me, first of
all, a wonderful country, second of all, a great
opportunity to hone my language
skills. Third of all, it was a
particularly exciting time to be an
American abroad. I think oftentimes
that’s the case. It felt like to me, given
the lead up to what we now call
Gulf War One. It was a very intense
period so I’ll always remember it and I’m
hopeful now, as my kids grow older, that they’ll
have a similar experience. Yeah. Female Speaker:
I’m wondering what the White House is doing in
particular as it relates to public service; whether
Peace Corps (inaudible) in addition to the study
abroad is that sort of (inaudible) Denis McDonough:
Yeah, well, we have a Social Innovation Office
and its head just walked in and just
walked out. (laughter) Also there he is,
Jonathan in the back. So this is a fundamental
tenet of the President’s term in his presidency and
his two terms here in the White House where we’re
trying to underscore that service in many of the ways
that you just talked about, as well as teaching, you know,
straight up public school teaching here, military
service, service in the development
agency at USAID, service in the foreign service
are fundamental tenets of America’s strength. You’ll hear him
talk about that in a variety of
public settings. He also, in his personal
interactions, either as he travels here or overseas,
tries to make sure that he’s interacting with and
lifting up the stories of those patriots who are
undertaking that service now. But I know you’ll hear
more about this from Jonathan over the course
of the afternoon. Yeah. Female Speaker:
What kind of initiatives do you have in place
for students who want to study abroad but can’t
necessarily afford it? Denis McDonough:
Well, the first thing is, and you’ll get more
on this during the course of the afternoon, but the
first thing is we are aggressively pushing
to make college, in and of itself,
more affordable. (laughs) That, in the course of
just the last six months or so, has involved
two principal efforts. One is we’re trying to use
the power of transparency in the market through a
college rating system to make clear what students
are paying and what they’re getting
for the result of what they’re
paying. This is a controversial
idea and, frankly, many of our traditional
friends are not particularly happy with it. (laughter) But we’ll be
rolling that out. Now we’ve been undertaking
the methodological research out of the Council of
Economic Advisers to prepare the rollout of that
scorecard and that will happen over the course of
now 2015 where parents and students will be
able to take a look at the value proposition
of individual colleges. That’s one. Two is to make sure that
as we’re also trying to drive down the cost of
college make sure that affordability of student
loans is more tenable, more sustainable. The numbers that we’re
seeing of students now graduating with debt is
remarkable, contributing to a lot of troubling
developments among millennials,
as we call them; you young people
these days. (laughter) And so we had a very good
breakthrough early last summer; a bipartisan measure to decrease
the cost of student loans and we’ll continue
to work that. That’s one of the things
that I know, for example, Senator Alexander,
who’s taken over the Health Commission,
the Education Commission, committee and Senate
wants to work on. Third is then just making
sure that in terms of making sure that students
have access, not only to loans, but also to grants. And one of the big things
that came out of 2009 and 2010, which we continue
to be able to invest in working families,
is dramatic expansion of the availability of
Pell Grants and those numbers have been
quite astounding. And we’ll continue to
push on that in the years to come, as those early
years’ funding peters out. So, the bottom line is
we don’t see the cost of foreign travel or foreign
study as separate or apart from the cost of college
here for the reasons that Ben
pointed out. And at the end of the day
the value proposition of what you get from a
college education is, obviously, something that
we’re continuing to lift up. Why don’t I take
one more and then I’ll let you get
back to work? Female Speaker:
Speaking of finances, (inaudible) Denis McDonough:
Oh, oh. Female Speaker:
(inaudible) it’s not cheap. Denis McDonough: No. Female Speaker:
(inaudible) (laughter) Denis McDonough:
That’s a good idea. Let me — Female Speaker:
I thought so– (laughter) Denis McDonough:
Hey, man. Believe me, people come in
here arguing similar — making similar
arguments all the time. (laughter) Look, chances are we
are working that. I just don’t know but let
me take that one. Yeah, I have kids. Female Speaker:
(inaudible) (laughter) Denis McDonough:
If you get your number here, I guarantee
you somebody will. (laughter) Probably better
your email. (laughter) Denis McDonough:
But, look, as somebody — I have
kids themselves who are going to foreign language
immersion school. It’s a big goal of mine
to make sure that when they come out of the back
end of this public schooling that they are able to
compete for and again — compete for international
and American jobs against
foreign kids. And so that’s an
investment in our future and we’ve got to
make sure that our tax code and our federal
investments are investing in those things that are going
to make us most competitive, over the life of, over
the course of time. And this is surely a good
investment and I hope that you guys, at the end
of your time here this afternoon, feel like it
was a good investment to come down to Washington. I know it was kind of wet
and — (laughter) — and, you know, kind
of soggy coming in but I’m really grateful
to have had the opportunity. I know you’re going to hear
from Assistant Secretary Ryan. So, thanks a lot for
everything that you guys are doing and keep up
the good work, okay. (applause) Evan Ryan:
Thank you all so much. I’m the Assistant
Secretary at the Bureau of Educational and
Cultural Affairs at the State Department and
I’ve been in that job for about 14 months and before I
was there I worked here with Vice President Biden. So I’m going to give you
a little bit of inside White House
information right now. You all have the White
House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough and Deputy National Security
Adviser Ben Rhodes. It’s a very
big deal — (laughter) — that you had them both
here with you today. So I just — just to give
you a sense of the level of importance that the
White House places on this it’s really something to
have both of them here. So we want to thank Denis and
Ben for both being here. (applause) I would also like to
particularly thank Shannon Green
(spelled phonetically) and Fran Luba who have been
leading the charge here and working
on this. We really want to thank
them for all of their work in convening this
important group and, just for second, I would
like to thank my team; Liz Allen
(spelled phonetically) and Megan Curtis
(spelled phonetically) and Heidi Manley
(spelled phonetically) and Anthony Kolea
(spelled phonetically). If you all could
raise your hands. As I just saw with
Denis, they’ll be here throughout the day — (applause) — so, not only did they
help but I also just — they’re here to answer
questions, if you have questions about the
work that we do. So, we just want to thank
them and say that we’re here to
be helpful. So, this is exciting
for us, from the Bureau of Educational
and Cultural Affairs, which we call ECA,
because this is our work. This is exactly what we
do day in and day out. It’s an important function
of the State Department that is particularly actful
for a group of movers and shakers like yourselves who share
the same belief that we do; the importance of
traveling abroad. As Edward R. Murrow famously
said, “the real crucial link in international exchange
is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal
contact, one person talking to another.” Travel is the means of
that last three feet. Travel opens doors for
young people to cross socioeconomic, cultural,
and geographic borders, to engage in people to
people connections, to increase mutual
understanding, and to collectively
solve global challenges. The United States is a
leader in many global fields, including
higher education. And one of our goals at
the State Department is to help ensure that young
Americans, our next generation of leaders,
have the international skills they want and
need for a globalized, 21st century
workforce. We know the
interest is there. Over half of U.S.
students enter university with expectations of
participating in study abroad. However, fewer than 10
percent actually take part in study abroad over their
entire academic careers. In 2012 to 2013
the total number of U.S. students taking
part in study abroad was under 300,000. On the surface, this
number sounds terrific until you realize this
is only 1.5 percent of the almost 20 million
American students enrolled in U.S. higher education
during the same period: 1.5 percent. It’s a very stunningly
low number. Fifteen years ago there
were nearly 130,000 U.S. students studying abroad,
with this number more than doubling by 2012/2013
to 289,000. Yet, with the current rate
of annual growth, which is approximately 2 percent,
it will take another 35 years to
double again. This is not
acceptable. We must do better
and we can do better. American students face
many real and perceived constraints to
studying abroad. They may be hesitant
to take leave from the universities and colleges
where they study, fearing a loss of progress toward
their degree completion. For those who rely on
income derived from employment, both the
short-term loss of income, as well as potential
increased cost of education for study
abroad may prove to be too
daunting. It is always difficult
to say goodbye to family and friends who may
worry about your safety and your
security. It is also intimidating
to navigate daily life in a foreign culture and
language and students may also express concerns
about missing out on events and activities
while away from their home
campuses. Nevertheless, we firmly
believe that encouraging American students
to study abroad is a strategic imperative
for the United States and responses from
students who are returning from international
experiences validate the importance of study
abroad on a more personal level
as well. Of the 20 million U.S.
students in higher education, they are represented as
follows: 62 percent white, 14 percent African-American,
13 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian-Pacific
Islander, and 1 percent Native American. With an overall study
abroad the balance is more skewed at 76 percent
white, 5 percent African-American, 8
percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian-Pacific
Islander, and less than 1 percent Native American. While we need to increase
study abroad overall, we specifically need to
ensure that students of all backgrounds, including
racial and ethnic, as well as socioeconomic status,
are better represented. As it stands, fewer
minority students study abroad than are
represented in higher education overall. Over the past 15 years,
we have seen slight improvements in reaching
more diverse students through study abroad. Between 2000 and 2012
minority representation at international study
has seen an increase from 16 percent to 24 percent
with over 68,000 minority students studying
abroad during the 2012/2013
academic year. We are making progress
but we can do better to be more reflective
of American society. While we must strive to
improve diversity in study abroad participation,
we must do likewise in the choice of
destinations. Fifteen years ago over
60 percent of U.S. students taking part in
study abroad traveled to Europe and, as you heard,
we had Denis McDonough, Ben Rhodes and I’ll say I,
myself, studied in London — (laughter) — as I will say, followed by
15 percent to Latin America and with single
digits for all other regions of the world. The current picture of
international study shows improvement with
a greater diversity of study abroad
destinations. As was the case 15 years
ago, Europe remains the primary destination for
Americans studying abroad and while overall numbers of
Americans studying in Europe have increased, the percentage
has fallen actually from 63 percent to 53 percent
over this time period. Even so, 32 percent
of all U.S. students taking part in study
abroad currently travel to one of only
three countries in Europe: the U.K., Italy,
and Spain. Latin America, a focal
point of the President’s 100,000 Strong in the
Americas Initiative, which Ben mentioned, has seen
an increase over the last 15 years with an overall
doubling in numbers currently standing at
16 percent and within the region Brazil has
increased sevenfold in the same
period of time. Asia, over the same
timeframe, has seen considerable growth;
doubling its share from 6 percent to 12 percent and
China, another White House priority country for study
abroad, is one of only two countries over 15 years
to rise into the top 10 destinations for U.S.
students studying abroad with a significant increase
from 2 percent to 5 percent. With fewer than
10 percent of U.S. students taking
advantage of study abroad opportunities, that
leaves over 90 percent of American students without
this vital component as part of their
education. We must strive to expand
overall participation rate in study abroad; make
sure to further diversify student participation
so as to better reflect American society overall
and we must ensure that Americans are learning
about the peoples and cultures across the
entire world, not just a handful of
countries. Why must more Americans
study abroad? It is crucial for our
country’s next generation of leaders to travel,
live, work, intern or volunteer abroad in order
to gain the skills needed to understand and operate
within the global, political, and
economic landscape of the 21st century. It is in America’s
national interests, writ large, to build and
sustain a globally minded and internationally
literate workforce, not just for government,
but for private industry and society
more broadly. At the State Department
we want to increase the overall number of
Americans studying abroad and do so by better
reaching parts of American society that are
currently underrepresented. We desire to see more
young people travel to destinations where fewer
Americans have studied and to learn critical
languages like Arabic, Chinese, Hindi,
and Russian. Americans who study
abroad become unofficial ambassadors for our
country, defining American values and debunking
stereotypes. They gain critical
perspectives and begin to establish networks that
enhance their individual prospects in the global
marketplace and their future potential as
global problem solvers. We send over
7000 Americans, from high school students
to college students to young professionals,
abroad on exchange programs every year. We recruit exchange
participants from institutions across the
United States, including large land grant
universities, small liberal arts colleges,
minority serving institutions, community
colleges, and other educational institutions. We seek to ensure that
our exchange programs are representative
of U.S. ethnic and racial
diversity and that students with disabilities
and students in fields underrepresented in study
abroad participate as well. We offer a variety of
exchange programs and models from as short as
a few weeks to as long as an academic year. We do this in order to
accommodate the demands, interests, and academic
schedules of all U.S. students. Many student exchange
participants study, research, learn languages,
and teach English abroad in communities in which
they may be the first Americans that local
citizens have ever met. I want to quickly mention
just a few of our programs, noting that
there’s more information on these programs and
others available in the handout that you were
given, or I think was on your seats;
yes, okay. Our National Security
Language Initiative for Youth and
Critical Language Scholarship
Programs offer U.S. high school students
and college students fully funded, intensive, summer
language institutes overseas in a number of
critical foreign languages like the ones I’ve just
previously mentioned. Through these programs,
we are focusing on the acquisition of
valuable linguistic skills, while also imparting
cultural knowledge and encouraging the
development of networks. Our Benjamin A. Gilman
International Scholarship Program
targets populations traditionally underrepresented
in study abroad by offering scholarships for academic
studies or career oriented internships abroad to U.S. undergraduate students
who receive Pell Grants. So, I was
listening earlier. Hopefully, that’s
an answer to one of the questions that we had
but we’re happy to speak to that further. The Gilman program breaks
those troubling diversity barriers that we’ve
mentioned with 56 percent of Gilman scholars
representing ethnic minority groups and almost
40 percent the first in their families
to go to college. Over 70 percent of Gilman
scholars studied outside of Western Europe and
an equal number studied a language, often a
critical language, during their
time abroad. The Fulbright U.S.
Student Program is sending a
record number of American students
overseas this coming year. These recent college
graduate students and early career professionals
will conduct research in large cities and small
villages across the globe, engaging with local
citizens and becoming part of the fabric of their
overseas community, while also gaining
important linguistic and cultural skills. The Fulbright program
continues to innovate and find new ways to engage
talented, highly motivated Americans early
in their careers. The new Fulbright National
Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship
will allow fellows to research and share
narratives on globally significant issues through
new media platforms, hopefully encouraging
the next generation of student
travelers. Study abroad is often
considered the pivotal event of many young
people’s lives. It is the moment that the
world is opened up to them and that many of them find
that their preconceived notions are turned
upside down. It is a time of great
discovery, both of the world
and of oneself. Having studied abroad
myself, I can personally attest to the
transformative experience of studying outside of
your own country but also outside of your
own comfort zone. While we are proud of our
role in supporting over 7000 Americans who
receive scholarships from State Department programs
each year, we are only the leading edge in fostering
and responding to interest in today’s globally
minded students. With this recognition,
I’m pleased to that we are establishing a new
office in our bureau; the U.S. Study
Abroad Office. (applause) This office will manage
some of our premier study abroad programs
and advocate alongside the broader community for the
benefits of study abroad, including to students,
parents, faculty, administrators, at
colleges and universities, private sector
representatives, and many others. So, we’re very
proud of this. It’s a big part of
why we’re excited you are all
here today. (laughter) And we’re also excited
to announce as well our partnership
with the Institute of International
Education and College Week Live to launch their first ever
virtual U.S. Study Abroad Fair that will be taking place
on February 25th online and everywhere
and, again, my team — everybody who’s here can
help answer questions about that but we’re
excited to announce that so that’s
February 25th. All in all, we are fully engaged
in expanding study abroad opportunities to American
students throughout the country. Our partners in the
business and nonprofit sectors, many of who I
know are joining us here today, can contribute as
well and I’m hoping that you’ll be inspired
to do so. Let’s think and work
creatively together to share the values of study
abroad for our workforce and our society; to
encourage young people to gain a global perspective
as part of their studies and to make the most of
the talented and globally minded individuals who
have benefited from study abroad by hiring them
and working with them to solve our social and
economic challenges. As travel bloggers,
you all are experts in communication
and in technology. That is why you’re
here and there’s a lot of talent and experience and
creativity just in this room. It is our hope that
each of you will join us in touting the
benefits of study abroad and encouraging greater
and more diverse numbers of American students to
travel and study abroad. We know that today’s
globally minded students have a strong interest in
either studying abroad or in working
abroad. Surveys over the past 10
years show that well over half of our current or
incoming college students share this
interest. So, why aren’t more
students studying abroad? How do we get greater
and more diverse numbers of American students
to surmount real and perceived barriers so they
can actually act on their interest and study abroad? These challenges are the
ones that we hope to transcend and we hope we
can count on all of you to join us in
that effort. So, we encourage you
to share the message that you
hear today. Study abroad is
important and study abroad is
for everyone. Blog about it. Tweet about it. I see that you’re already
tweeting about it I know. (laughter) And I want to thank you all for
joining us here today. Thank you. (applause)

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