Reinhardt University's Study Abroad Mission Statement (see the Handbook) provides the essential reasoning for participating in educational experiences beyond the Reinhardt campus. We live in a global community, and Reinhardt students must be prepared to function effectively in that interconnected global community no matter what their future career. For those of you planning a career in the business world, the following essay may provide you with further motivation for gaining an international education.
American Business and Society Has Gone Global, But the American People Have Not By John Jarvis, Ph.D., Bay Path University
At the end of the twentieth century, globalization has transformed the ways we live, work, and play. American business people and tourists make 50 million trips outside of the U. S. each year. An additional 50 million foreign visitors come to our shores annually. Foreign tourists alone pump $100 billion into our economy each year, supporting over 1 million jobs. The globalization of U. S. investment and industry is even more impressive. Overseas investment by Americans is nearing the trillion-dollar mark. Foreign investment in the U. S. is close behind and growing. Increasingly, the annual revenues of American businesses come from outside the U. S. Colgate-Palmolive Company pulls in 70% of its yearly income from overseas. Intel earns almost 50% of annual revenues from foreign sales. Over 40% of Reebok's yearly sales take place in 139 countries around the globe. Worldwide, these sales add up. In fact, overseas branches of multinational corporations currently bring in annual sales of a sobering six trillion dollars to those companies that have pushed beyond their own borders.
Globalization in the past few years has also expressed itself through the acquisition of American firms by foreign owners at a much-increased rate. Such icons of American life as Dunkin' Donuts, Burger King, and Holiday Inn are no longer American. Foreigners now own thousands of U.S. companies. Five million people in the U. S. work for employers who live overseas, and the numbers are growing every day. What is happening here at home is happening everywhere. Worldwide, global corporate mergers are skyrocketing. They totaled 6000 in 1997. In the first half of 1998 alone, the value of cross-border business mergers boomed to a cool trillion dollars.
In the past three decades, every aspect of U. S. business and society has gone global except one -- the American people. At the very time that vast networks of communication, transportation, trade, finance, technology transfer, and politics have made the world a single community, the American people have remained largely monolingual, monocultural, and unaware of what is going on in the rest of the world. This is creating one of the most serious and most costly problems which leaders in business, industry, and government face. Consider the facts:
Only about 7% of American college graduates take at least one course in a foreign language. This is less than half of the number of college students who studied foreign languages thirty years ago.
Americans often assume that the rest of the world is learning English. Therefore many feel that they do not need to learn a foreign language. In reality, although English is the second most spoken language on Earth, only 8.5% of the world's people speak it. This includes native speakers and those who have learned English as a second language.
Americans are three to four times more likely to fail in overseas assignments than Asian or European workers. Experts in international employee training have found that this high failure rate (25% of all U. S. workers sent abroad) is due to the inability of Americans to adapt to new cultures.
It can cost a company up to $1 million in wasted resources and other expenses when an employee comes home prematurely from an overseas assignment. It can be even more costly if the employee does not come home prematurely but rather stays on the job abroad and regularly offends overseas clients and partners through ignorance, personal frustrations and negative attitudes towards the host culture that accompany the lack of cultural adaptation.
Studying Abroad Can Make a Difference
Students who choose to study overseas can start now to develop the essential language and intercultural communication skills that will make them leaders in their fields in the years ahead. As students, they have both the time and the institutional support to help them focus on learning how to cross cultures successfully. Furthermore, they are still young and much more flexible in their personal habits and cultural attitudes than they will be later when established in their careers and families.
A student who takes seriously the opportunity to study in a foreign land can expect to develop the following kinds of understandings and skills:
The ability to communicate in at least one foreign language
A better understanding of how different one culture can be from another and how deeply we are limited if we only know one way of living, thinking, feeling, and behaving.
The ability to set aside one's "home" culture and to bridge to new cultures in your attitudes, behaviors, and ways of productively seeing and solving problems.
The ability to lead America with greater understanding and confidence into the 21st century through successful day-to-day interactions in the global workplace that has become a reality in every field and every discipline.
A deeper understanding of the human experience in all its varieties and global diversity.
The five qualities above are marketable skills in the corporate world, and are at the heart of what employers in the U. S. and around the world are most looking for in new hires as we enter what many are calling the "global" century. Students who study abroad can turn lack of international awareness, currently one of the greatest weaknesses in America, into one of their greatest personal strengths as they launch careers in their chosen fields. On a personal level, these students will have the human understanding and global awareness that will help them to live meaningful lives as informed citizens of the global community.
For additional information please contact:
Dr. Cheryl Brown International Studies Program Coordinator 770-720-5857 CLB2@reinhardt.edu