Impact of study abroad experiences on first generation students

Impact of study abroad experiences on first generation students

Survey research has measured the positive impact of the study abroad experience, including increased social awareness and expanded career prospects. Nearly all students surveyed in a study abroad research report responded that they gained a better understanding of themselves through the experience — study abroad revealed their own cultural values and biases, and increased their maturity and self-confidence. Diverse first generation students are underrepresented among students who study abroad because they lack access. They especially benefit from the social and cultural capital accrued through the study abroad experience.

The Knowledge Without Borders Fund supports diverse first generation students with study abroad scholarships mediated by the Minnesota Student Project for Amity Among Nations (SPAN). SPAN offers students from all Minnesota colleges and universities the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of their choice as part of a cultural immersion program. In its first post-COVID summer study abroad program, SPAN organized a study trip to London, England. Three students received scholarships through the Knowledge Without Borders Fund.

Study abroad experiences have many benefits

Students reported on their summer experiences to the Knowledge Without Borders Fund. They worked on projects as varied as analyzing themes in Peter Pan, researching policies to fight algorithm bias in the United Kingdom, and deconstructing miniskirt mythologies in 1960s London.

Here are some reflections of the first generation students on their summer of research and exploration: “I will never forget this amazing journey;” “I see now there are many new adventures possible;” “I have only read about other worlds through books. I never imagined something like this would happen in my life. You [are] helping me achieve my dreams.”

The study abroad experiences like those offered by SPAN and supported by the Knowledge Without Borders Fund have the potential to change the projection of a first generation student’s life by exposing them to new cultures and experiences that will have an impact on future leadership, service and career opportunities.


Karen Collias

My name is Karen Collias and I founded Knowledge Without Borders™ to infuse creativity and innovation into the most salient educational issues affecting global contemporary society. I attribute my enthusiasm to cross the borders of traditional knowledge domains to the multi-disciplinary nature of my education and professional experience. The first in my family to go to college, I have a Ph.D. from Columbia University. My professional experience focuses on interdisciplinary research, teaching, and strategic thinking at a variety of institutions, including Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, and the U.S. Department of State. I currently am crossing borders to write about creativity and innovation in education and philanthropy.



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