Last Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered an inspiring commencement speech at the Anacostia Senior High School in Washington, DC. In her speech, she noted that almost ninety percent of the graduating class had plans to attend college next year, which is up from under thirty the previous year. Many of those students will be the first in their family to go to college. Recognizing that as a huge achievement, the First Lady encouraged them never to “scale back” their dreams, and to keep doing all they could do. She also encouraged them to challenge the way they think about the world. She said,
To those of you who are college bound in the fall, I just hope that you make the most of that experience. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way… study abroad if you can. Find a way to travel the world.
The students in this graduating class represent a demographic of students that is largely under-represented in study abroad. While the First Lady’s encouragement could pique greater interest in studying abroad among students who might not otherwise consider it, much still needs to be done to ensure that students everywhere can access quality study abroad opportunities. Research shows that the majority of students entering college plan to study abroad, but that somewhere around ten percent of students graduating actually do. It is great to hear this message coming from the White House encouraging students to take the leap and explore the world through study abroad. If students are taking note, many study abroad offices could see more student interest next year. However, many barriers still exist on college campuses across the country, and students might get discouraged from studying abroad because they find it difficult to navigate the system on campus, feel overwhelmed by academic requirements, are deterred by their professors, or simply don’t have the money. Join us in telling President Obama why we need his leadership in breaking down these barriers and making study abroad a priority for the United States by sending a letter here.