Brief: Official talks study abroad misconceptions

Tessa Duvall

Michael Woolf, deputy president for strategic development at CAPA International Education, spoke at WKU last night in order to clear up common study abroad misconceptions.

Study abroad isn’t a tourist trip – it is a serious academic endeavor – but the study abroad industry doesn’t always send that message to students, he told the Herald prior to the presentation.

One common myth about study abroad is that nontraditional locations benefit students more than common destinations like Western Europe, he said.

“If you’re studying African languages, of course you go to Africa,” he said.

But in reality, the curriculum at American universities is based off the Western European tradition, he said. Because of this, it makes more sense for students to study there in many cases.

Woolf also said he took issue with sayings such as “study abroad changed my life” and the notion of “global citizenship.”

By saying “study abroad changed my life,” it’s implied that going overseas automatically changes a person, which can set students up for failure, he said.

“It’s all about the effort you put into things,” he said.

Woolf also said the notion of “global citizenship” is an impossible status to achieve because a person can only be a citizen of one country. He said he prefers terms such as “cosmopolitan” or “internationally aware.”

Study abroad allows students to see global realities, both good and bad, and challenges stereotypes students may have.

Woolf said that study abroad can benefit WKU, because as students return from trips, they come back with different skills and ideas. As they re-enter their classes on the Hill, their new perceptions filter into classes, which can challenge professor and student perceptions.