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Michelle Obama calls for more students to study abroad

More students have been pushed to study abroad in a recent speech by Michelle Obama


Image Source: NY Daily News Online


US First Lady Michelle Obama has stressed the importance of global education by encouraging more students to study abroad.

In a speech delivered at Peking University’s Stanford Centre on Saturday, Mrs. Obama described the study abroad experience as key means of strengthening global ties and promoting cultural tolerance.

‘By learning each other’s languages and by showing such curiosity and respect for each other’s cultures, you are building bridges of understanding that lead to so much more,’ she said, calling study abroad a ‘vital part of our [US] foreign policy.’  

‘When it comes to the defining challenges of our time—whether it’s climate change or economic opportunity or the spread of nuclear weapons—these are shared challenges. And no one country can confront them alone. The only way forward is together.’

Speaking to an audience of 170 students, staff and alumni, Saturday marked the third day of Mrs. Obama’s week-long goodwill tour of China. Calling on institutions to provide more opportunities for students of all backgrounds to study abroad, Mrs. Obama emphasized the importance of overseas study in helping students realize their full potential.

Selected questions submitted through CNN’s interactive iReporter web service were put to Mrs. Obama and answered via a video interview, also on Saturday, as part of CNN’s coverage of the visit. Tackling questions from both teachers and students, Mrs. Obama gave some advice for prospective study abroad students as well as sharing some anecdotes from her own experience.

Coming off the heels of the 2010 ‘100,000 Strong in the Americas’ initiative, emphasis upon US-China educational exchanges is more pertinent than ever. Conceived to increase the amount of American students studying in China, the initiative works to enhance bi-national relations and expose more students to a broader, internationalised education by doubling the amount of exchange students in American within ten years. The goals of the initiative are now managed by 100,000 Strong, a non-profit external organisation.

Mrs. Obama’s trip marks the 35th anniversary of the normalization of US-China relations. The US currently hosts the highest proportion of Chinese students studying abroad in the world, whilst China is the fifth most popular study abroad destination for Americans. Last year however, only 1% of American students studied abroad.

A number of national initiatives and organisations have sought to address this shortfall. For one, the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) initiative ‘Generation Study Abroad’ has worked to bring together employers and associations to create new opportunities for American students to study abroad. Since its inception earlier this year, the initiative will invest US$2 million to provide institutions with grants to create new opportunities for prospective international students, as well as devise new scholarship schemes for high school and university students. The amount of American students abroad is hoped to be doubled by 2020.

The 2013 Forum on Education Abroad similarly addressed the need of American universities in gaining a more international scope, and taking a more decisive hand in creating overseas study programmes.

Stanford University, California has enjoyed a collaborative relationship with Peking University since 1970, starting with scholarly exchanges but soon progressing to include student exchanges, too. There are nine Stanford teaching and research study programmes currently being taught at Peking University.


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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.


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