All students should study abroad, practice cultural competence

Learning how to interact with people from a wide variety of backgrounds benefits career aspirations



Traveling abroad helps students develop a diverse worldview that looks good on resumes and builds tolerance and cultural awareness.

LORIELL LOUANGAMATH, Evergreen columnist

Cougs need to take advantage of the professional and cultural benefits of WSU study abroad programs.

In 2014, WSU joined a global movement called Generation Study Abroad with the goal of increasing opportunities for students to diversify their education by studying abroad.

Becoming a Global Coug not only looks good on a resume, but it gives students the chance to travel and learn about cultures all over the globe.

In Pullman, where it can be easy to lose interest in academics or interacting on campus at all, studying abroad helps bring new and exciting opportunities and interest that can provide a break from the sometimes tedious college experience.

“[Studying abroad] helps students understand that diversity is not just U.S. diversity but multicultural diversity,” said Christine Oakley, director of the Global Learning Department of the Office of International Programs. “[The programs help] make sure students understand how to interact and appreciate the differences all around us.”

Don’t worry about falling out of the loop with friends. There are study abroad programs during breaks as well as summer session and many are as short as two weeks to a month.

WSU wants all students to graduate as globally engaged citizens to be better prepared for their potential careers.

Global Learning has five global learning advisers to help students find programs that best fit them, understand education abroad and learn about the Global Leadership Certificate.

Global education at WSU is meant to connect people with international experiences and give students a perspective of who they are in the professional world.

The university has pledged to increase the number of students studying abroad from 800 to 1,000 students each year by 2019.

Money is usually a big concern for some students, but before shutting off the idea completely schedule an appointment with Cheri Nelson, office assistant for Global Learning, so she can help you understand the programs and what financial assistance is available.

She will direct you to the correct counselor, and they will sit down and discuss all your questions and concerns.

“[My job is] advocating for international education on campus,” Oakley said, “so it’s not just working with students but it really is being an advocate for internationalizing a student’s program of study.”

Oakley works with students directly, but her main focus is to talk to other university colleges like the Carson College of Business or Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

She will sit down with faculty members in other majors so she can tie more programs to those colleges to attract more students in the major.

This is especially important at WSU because getting students to study abroad will help the university become more culturally competent.

Thirty percent of the WSU students are from multicultural backgrounds, according to the Quick Facts page of the WSU website. Multicultural diversity is all around us, so if students want to be successful after college, they should know how to work with people from different backgrounds.

Directly experiencing other cultures will help students learn how to be respectful. As an Asian-American student, it is hard to try to fit in on campus when you know you are in the minority. We need to remember to be respectful of different cultures, not just on campus, but off campus as well.

We should educate those who want to learn about the many cultures here on campus to spread positivity and to also show people different ways of life.

Being active in the Global Learning department brings new opportunities and experiences college students need in their daily life in order to become culturally aware citizens.