Global Engagement

 

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Global Engagement at the University of Michigan

Global Engagement:
A Snapshot of Internationalization

Experiences Abroad

The 2008 survey of graduating seniors, The Michigan Experience I: Perspectives from the Class of 2008, and the 2009 survey of alumni cohorts, The Michigan Experience II: Perspectives from the Alumni, give snapshots of our students’ international experiences. The survey listed a number of experiences involving internationalization and then asked survey respondents how frequently, if ever, they had sought out or encountered them.

The University’s population of international students plays a significant role in bringing an international component to the undergraduate experience (figure below). Almost all respondents to the 2008 graduating senior survey (93%) reported interacting with international students in class at some point, and these students were most likely to say this happened during most terms. Nearly as high a percentage (86%) also indicated that they interacted with international students socially, and 79% said they had a friendship with one or more international students. Three-quarters of the senior respondents indicated that they had enrolled in a course with an international focus, most commonly for one or two terms. Other opportunities commonly reported by students were cultural events (82%), and extracurricular lectures and workshops with an international focus (66%). A significant fraction of the 2008 senior survey respondents reported volunteer, intern, or work experiences that were international (41%), while projects with faculty members that had an international focus were less common (21%).

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How frequent were international experiences? (2008 seniors; n=1504)

When asked the same questions, the alumni cohort respondents also valued the presence of international students on campus. Almost everyone reported interacting with international students in class at some point, typically in most of their terms on campus. Nearly as high a percentage indicated that they interacted with international students socially, and three- quarters developed a friendship with one or more international students. Over threequarters of alumni indicated that they had enrolled in a course with an international focus, most commonly for one or two terms, and the same proportion of alumni reported attending a performance or other cultural event with a global theme. Almost a third of recent alumni respondents reported volunteer, intern, or work experiences that were international (31%), while projects with faculty members that had an international focus were less common (20%).

An important component to alumni responses is the way they differ by cohort (figure below). There is a distinct change over time, showing that recent alumni are more likely to have had international experiences than those who graduated a decade ago. Furthermore, recent alumni reported having had these experiences more often. To show these differences, the charts display alumni responses grouped by years since graduation. The results of the 2008 senior survey indicate that the University continues to make progress in this area.

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Which of these activities did you participate in while at U-M?
(% alumni per cohort who participated; n=3097)

Slightly more than half (51%) of the respondents on the 2008 graduating senior survey reported having traveled or studied abroad (defined as outside the U.S. and Canada). A fifth of the respondents stated that they participated in a study abroad experience that lasted for an academic term or more, while 9% reported study abroad that lasted for less than an academic term. Notably, volunteering or working abroad was reported by 14% of 2008 senior respondents, while 17% indicated they went abroad outside of a study abroad or work setting, but with the primary purpose of having a cross-cultural or educational experience (in contrast to travel for pure recreation). Most of the students who reported these experiences abroad had them in countries where English is not the primary language (figure below). The regions where students said they traveled to or studied were diverse. Western Europe was the most common (62% of the respondents), while Eastern Europe was visited by a much smaller number (17%). Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean were popular (50%), whereas Asia was a destination for 20% of the seniors.

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Experiences in a foreign country (2008 seniors; n=1673)

Just under half of alumni from the last decade who responded to our survey reported that they had some experience traveling or studying abroad (again defined as outside the U.S. and Canada). About one alumnus out of seven participated in a study-abroad experience that lasted for an academic term or more, while 5% reported study abroad that lasted for a shorter period than an academic term. Volunteering or working abroad was reported by 8% of alumni. About one in ten indicated they went abroad outside of a study-abroad or a work setting, with the primary purpose of having a cross-cultural or educational experience (in contrast to travel for pure recreation). Alumni were asked about recreational travel abroad as well, and about 41% did this while a University of Michigan student. Most of the alumni respondents who reported time spent abroad did so in countries where English is not the primary language (figure below).

Did you have any of the following types of experiences in a foreign country while enrolled at U-M? (alumni; n=3097)

Western Europe was the most common destination for our alumni survey respondents (nearly two-thirds), while Eastern Europe was visited by a much smaller number (16%). Mexico and Central America were relatively popular, with one-third of the travelers reported having visited that region. Asia was a destination for 16% of the alumni who reported travel and study abroad.

Based on the survey results, we find that international experiences between 2008 senior respondents and alumni cohort respondents are comparable in totals, but that, based on this sample, their levels of international activities appear to be on the rise. Longer academic experiences (one term or more) seem to be increasingly common, as are international volunteering activities, possibly reflecting the evolving goals of today’s students and the available opportunities at the University of Michigan.

 

 

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