Learn a “foreign” language? Study Abroad? Absolutely! by Steve Griffith, Senior Vice President and Academic Dean

It is not news that our world grows smaller every day. It takes seconds for news to travel around the globe.  We live and work in a global economy.  Many of you work for international companies. Iowa depends on selling its farm and other products all over the world. One of Simpson’s responsibilities is to make sure our graduates are prepared to live and work in this environment. We are doing this in at least two ways.

Years ago, we would require students to study a foreign language because it was believed that every college educated person needed to know a second language. Although many of us still firmly believe life is enriched by learning a non-native language and everyone should do so for its own worth, we no longer require language courses for all students. Instead, we require all students to take at least one intercultural communications course. We do this because over and over we hear from employers that they need employees who can communicate effectively in cultures other than their own. Instead of trying to “master” a language in one or two semesters, our intercultural communication courses help students feel comfortable operating in a non-native environment. Our faculty members have created an exciting way to match learning the basics of a language and learning a country’s culture. We have such courses in Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic. By learning to communicate in one specific part of the world, students learn the skills to communicate wherever life might take them.

I have often told our Simpson College faculty that if I could require all students to do just one thing during their time at Simpson, it would be to study abroad.  I believe it is that important!  Not only do students who study abroad experience wonderful new things that enrich their lives, they learn about themselves and their own culture. Simpson College offers many opportunities to study abroad. Some 150-200 Simpson students will study abroad each year during our May Term. We typically have 8-10 courses going all over the world for 2-3 weeks. In addition, Simpson has designed and offers six Simpson Experience Abroad (SEA) semester programs. Our SEA programs are offered on a rotation in the fall and spring semesters to Thailand, Argentina, Tahiti, Germany, Australia and England. Typically, we send a Simpson faculty member with a group of students abroad for an entire semester. Group size varies from 6 to 20, depending on the year and location. In addition, Simpson has several exchange programs with several universities abroad. I know what you are thinking. What about the cost?

There is no doubt that college is expensive, but it is also an important investment! I encourage all students and parents to look more closely at the costs of study abroad, before taking it off the table. Our May Term programs typically cost between $2,500 and $5,000. Our full semester abroad programs are actually much more cost effective and don’t cost much more than the May Term programs. Also, the financial aid students receive from the college can usually be used to help fund our semester programs. In the coming years, we hope to identify specific scholarship funds to reduce the cost of study abroad, even more. Study abroad can be an experience that sets the direction for a student’s life and career. I have known hundreds of students who have studied abroad. Not one has ever told me it was not the best investment in their college experience.

I encourage you to spend some time with your son or daughter reviewing our study abroad offerings at: http://simpson.edu/studyabroad/. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Jay Wilkinson, Director of International Education. This could be the most important conversation you have with your son or daughter while they are in college.

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