Study abroad: Why students are packing their bags

By Maria Singh

Instead of staying in America in pursuit of higher education, future college students are flocking to Europe to receive an education.

According to a report conducted by the National Center on Education and Economy, educational achievement in America has faltered amongst its international peers.

The U.S. ranked 14th in overall academic performance, while countries from Asia claimed spots one through four and Finland took number five. However, the prospect of studying in Europe has gained more appeal to students in America for its unique educational approach.

Yajaira Lechuga, a graduate student pursuing her multiple subject teaching credential at Cal Poly Pomona who studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain this summer, noticed the differences between what she was used to in America and the Spanish educational system.

“It’s very different,” said Lechuga. “I’m in the teacher program so it’s more similar to general education, but in Spanish education, the teachers do not go that fast if you’re not at that level yet. They kind of wait for you, and wait until you fully understand the concept until you move on to the next one.”

Despite the differences, Lechuga encouraged students who are thinking about studying abroad to embrace all that a new country has to offer.

“I would recommend to have an open mind and to really accept the cultureand integrate yourself within it because you’re going to have a more enjoyable time being a part of something instead of separating yourself from your surroundings,” said Lechuga.

One of the main differences between the European and American educational systems is how each system is structured.

Higher education in Europe is cultivated around what is known as the Bologna Process. Created in 1999, the process brought 47 countries together to create the European Higher Education Area.

The European Higher Education Area developed a curriculum that was easily accessible to students. It also made college degrees more attainable so students could find jobs in multiple European countries.

“In the United States we use colleges and universities synonymously, which is not the case in Europe and typically universities in Europe are more research-oriented and colleges are more applied-learning oriented, but when I say this, I say this with broad generalization,” said E. Anneli Adams, the executive director of global initiatives at the International Center and College of the Extended University.

Adams stated that although the two academic systems are slightly different, it is important to experience alternate ways of learning.

“The reality of any student at any university for that matter should be really to consider what skills are necessary for that person to operate in the increasingly interconnected world,” said Adams. “Having that skill set and the mindset that ours is just one way of doing things”it’s not necessarily the right way or wrong way”but it is one way.”

However, one of the major reasons why American students are looking to continue their education in Europe is the high tuition cost for universities in the U.S.

While it is a common belief that universities in countries such as Germany, Sweden and Norway are free, the funding in these countries comes from high taxes implemented to provide additional social services, including education.

The difference between the way universities in America are funded and the way universities in Europe are funded lies in the federal government.

Due to a heavy emphasis on decentralization, public universities in the U.S. receive funding from the state or local government, while lower educational institutions rely on the federal government for funding.

In comparison, universities in Europe”whether public or private”receive funding through the federal government and its taxes.

Llenia Caia, a graduate student from Italy who studied abroad at the University of Missouri in 2015, explained her thoughts on what the American educational system had to offer her.

“Italian university is definitely cheaper compared to American colleges, but what I noticed about studying in Missouri is that you tend to be more practical and Italian classes are more theoretical,” said Caia in an e-mail correspondence.

Caia believed that this difference is what made her experience in America great and was essential to her educational career path.

“What I loved about my semester in Missouri is that I learned skills actually useful for my future career instead of wasting my time in textbooks about theories far from reality,” said Caia. “I’m not saying that one of these systems is wrong, but that I’m a practical person and I love practical approaches.”

The rate of American students studying abroad is steadily increasing due to opportunities for new experiences, new perspectives and new occupations.

Pontifical University of Salamanca; located in Spain

Maria Singh / The Poly Post

Pontifical University of Salamanca; located in Spain

University in Spain

Maria Singh / The Poly Post

University in Spain

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