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Study abroad shapes lives of meaning

Auggies find their callings in the far reaches of the world

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More than 10,000 people from across the United States and from 300 educational institutions have studied abroad in more than 40 countries through Augsburg College’s Center for Global Education and Experience. Nearly 80 percent of those—now living and working throughout the globe—credit their study abroad experience with having a strong impact on their work lives.

It’s accepted as common wisdom that studying in another culture yields recognizable benefits including personal growth, intercultural development, foreign language improvement, and the formation of friendships.

Less well explored is how being immersed in another culture plays a role in helping people discern their callings and find employment within their vocation.

This past spring, the center conducted a survey to gather data about its programs, specifically the impact of programs on the personal and professional lives of participants. The survey found that 79 percent of summer and semester program alumni feel their experience abroad has had a strong effect on their ability to secure employment after graduation.

To find out how studying abroad influences the lives of its participants, we talked to Auggie alumni about their experiences, how studying abroad helped shape their careers and lives, and what they would like current students to take away from it all.

Center for Global Education and Experience

Since 1982 and with locations in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Namibia, and Nicaragua, Augsburg has provided thousands of people cross-cultural educational opportunities that foster critical analysis of local and global conditions and challenge students’ perceptions about global justice and human rights.

Nationally recognized with various awards for its work in experiential and educational travel opportunities, the center most recently won a 2014 award for Best Practices in International Education Exchange from NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. NASPA seeks to recognize domestic and international colleagues and institutions for exceptional work related to international higher education.

Meet our experts

Erick CannyERIC CANNY

Eric Canny is the dean of global education at Augsburg College. Prior to joining Augsburg, he was executive director of International Learning at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. He has held international leadership positions at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. He received his bachelor’s in fine arts and master’s in education from New York University in New York City. He is completing his doctorate in global executive leadership with a focus on higher education at the University of Southern California, Rossier’s School of Education in Los Angeles.

Bruce Shoemaker '81BRUCE SHOEMAKER ’81

Bruce Shoemaker, a metro-urban studies and sociology major, studied in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in 1980. This experience led to more than 30 years of international development work in Southeast Asia where he has focused on natural resource conflict issues by helping local communities resist the loss and exploitation of their land, rivers, and forests by outside investors and companies.

Stephen Hindle '89STEPHEN HINDLE ’89

Stephen Hindle, a history major, studied in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and in Nicaragua and Honduras during 1988. Today, he is the director of Asia Pacific at Pearson Clinical and Talent Assessment where he oversees staff across five countries, developing models to explain talent management issues for clients and also developing and executing solutions to solve organizational problems.


 Auggies discover their calling around the globe

IN A STUDY BY THE INSTITUTE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION OF STUDENTS, two-thirds of 17,000 alumni surveyed credit their education abroad with influencing their lives by opening up an interest in or passion for another culture. It’s that passion that leads students to lifelong careers in global work.

“You should follow your passion,” Eric Canny, Augsburg dean of global education, confirmed. “I always say I ‘fell into’ global [education]. But I think it’s critically important for students’ academic and personal growth to study abroad.”

Bruce Shoemaker ’81 believes that not only does studying abroad create an interest in global work, but it also helps graduates obtain that work. “Having international experience lets employers know that you have challenged yourself; that you have stepped outside of your comfort zone—done something innovative, creative, and new,” he said. “It is one of those things that allows you to broaden your perspectives and—in my case—bring about social change.”

That experience helps students to get ahead in life, too. “Never stop asking questions…recognizing assumptions, evaluating arguments, and drawing the correct conclusions,” Stephen Hindle ’89 said. “I learned this through my experiences studying abroad and that is why I have dedicated my life to teaching in one form or another.”

So, we wanted to know, if studying abroad so dramatically shaped the lives of these Auggie alumni, what influence could it have on current and future college students’ career paths?

We asked our experts.

How studying abroad can….


 Help support vocational discernment

“Studying abroad didn’t help me to discern my vocation, it literally became my vocation. I was just really into traveling,

and THE INTERNATIONAL WORK GRIPPED ME AND BECAME MY CAREER. My participation…led to a lifelong interest in international development and justice issues.” –SHOEMAKER

“As I studied and traveled through Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras, I realized that I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING THAT WOULD HELP OTHERS reach their goals and fulfill their potential.” –HINDLE

“THERE OFTEN IS NO OTHER EXPERIENCE IN COLLEGE THAT WILL BE AS TRANSFORMATIONAL AS STUDY ABROAD. WE NEED TO REACH STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT JUST INTERESTED IN A VACATION ABROAD, BUT IN THE SOCIAL JUSTICE FOCUS, WHO MAY NOT REALIZE WHAT ALL THEIR OPPORTUNITIES ARE.” –CANNY


Ignite an interest in global work

IT OPENED MY EYES TO THE WORLD outside of the United States. It made me realize that people around the world have similar desires and needs, and helped me understand that we can make a difference if we put our minds to it and work in a cooperative manner with the people living in the areas that need assistance.” –HINDLE

“I would challenge anyone to find a career that isn’t somehow global today. It doesn’t matter what you do, there is probably somehow a global connection. Even if you don’t work in global—studying abroad helps students to gain those sought-after ‘soft skills’ that can apply to any major.” –CANNY

“STUDYING IN CUERNAVACA, MEXICO, WAS EYE OPENING—ESPECIALLY LEARNING ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES ON AN INTERNATIONAL SCALE. WE LIVED WITH VERY POOR FAMILIES IN LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS AND GOT A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THEY WERE FACING, INCLUDING THINGS LIKE INEQUALITY AND SOCIAL INJUSTICE.” –SHOEMAKER


Translate across cultures

“ONE IMPORTANT SKILL I GAINED WAS CRITICAL ANALYSIS. WHEN LIVING IN ANOTHER CULTURE, YOU NEED TO DO A LOT OF REAL THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE BEING TOLD VERSUS WHAT THE REALITY IS. ADDITIONALLY, IT HELPED ME TO DEVELOP A CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING, REFINE COMMUNICATION SKILLS, AND LEARN TO LISTEN TO PEOPLE AND PERSPECTIVES FROM OTHER CULTURES.” –SHOEMAKER

“Being a middle-class boy from a small town in Minnesota, I really had no understanding of other cultures. And yet, after all my travels around the globe, it still strikes me as fascinating how children play the same games, parents fear and rejoice over their children in similar ways, and WE ALL STRIVE FOR THE SAME THINGS.” –HINDLE

“PEOPLE WHO STUDY ABROAD KNOW HOW TO READ PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY’RE USED TO READING THE INTERPRETATION OF DIFFERENT CULTURES. IT’S ABOUT HAVING AN ‘OPENNESS TO THE OTHER.’ YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO ABROAD TO BE EXPOSED TO DIVERSITY. LOOK AT AUGSBURG’S INTENTIONAL DIVERSITY—INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ON THIS CAMPUS HELP GIVE THE CLASSROOM A TRULY GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE.” –CANNY


Develop skills for the workforce

I LEARNED RESPECT—for myself, but more importantly for others. I learned that life is not fair but that with hard work, a good idea, and luck you can sometimes turn things around. I learned that information is key—learn as much as you can about your surroundings.” –HINDLE

“STUDYING ABROAD IS REALLY CHALLENGING. Individuals who study abroad usually have great interview skills; they know how to navigate complex situations; it can increase their sense of self worth and their survival skills.–CANNY

“ONE IMPORTANT SKILL I GAINED WAS CRITICAL ANALYSIS. WHEN LIVING IN ANOTHER CULTURE, YOU NEED TO DO A LOT OF REAL THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE BEING TOLD VERSUS WHAT THE REALITY IS. ADDITIONALLY, IT HELPED ME TO DEVELOP A CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING, REFINE COMMUNICATION SKILLS, AND LEARN TO LISTEN TO PEOPLE AND PERSPECTIVES FROM OTHER CULTURES.” –SHOEMAKER

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