The White House hosted travel bloggers for a summit on study abroad and global citizenship.
By Erica Moody
We went to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last week for a conference that brought 100 of the country’s most respected travel bloggers and digital journalists to D.C. The “White House Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad and Student Mobility” gathered to discuss issues of cross-cultural education among U.S. students, focusing on the government’s push for more students to study abroad. The idea behind the summit is that travel bloggers will be the ones to promote study abroad to millennials.
Guests heard from heavy hitters in both government and media, who spoke on the benefits of studying abroad. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough spoke on his own study abroad experience (Spain), as did Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes: “I studied abroad in Paris…which wasn’t exactly a hardship post.”
Speakers also addressed the challenges that young people face with the decision to study abroad, and the areas that need improvement. Stats show that only 10% of U.S. students end up studying abroad while in college, and more than half choose to study in Europe. And location is not the only area where diversity is lacking; approximately 76% of students who study abroad are white. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan said that encouraging students to study abroad is “a strategic imperative for the United States” and “We need to ensure that students of all backgrounds are better represented.”
But what about the cost of traveling and living overseas? Studying abroad can be pricey, but perhaps worth it for the investment in your future. As Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program alumnus Alex Montoya put it, “I would argue that it’s very expensive not to study abroad,” considering that employers prefer to hire candidates with global awareness. “I can’t say enough about how it enhances your marketability to have a study abroad experience,” said Ryan.
As you might expect from a room full of bloggers, the event’s hashtags were in full force. #WHtravelbloggers was trending throughout the day, and #StudyAbroadBecause is still going strong. Guests gasped and got to tweeting when Ryan announced plans for the creation of a U.S. Study Abroad Office that will manage the State Department’s study abroad scholarships and capacity-building programs.
Following panels, the reception and dinner at the Newseum was an impressive affair, hosted by Turkish Airlines with no expense spared. As guests wrapped up a lovely meal by Wolfgang Puck Catering, it was announced that every travel blogger invited to the White House that day would be receiving complimentary first-class round-trip tickets to Istanbul for a follow-up summit.
Add your voice to the conversation by tweeting #StudyAbroadBecause and learn more about the State Department’s exchange programs here: http://exchanges.state.gov/us.
Speakers included: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting Benjamin Rhodes, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Chief of Staff to the First Lady Tina Tchen, National Security Council Senior Director for Global Engagement Shannon Green, NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan, Millennial Trains Project CEO Patrick Dowd, Daniela Kaisth, Yahoo Travel Editor in Chief Paula Froelich, The White House’s Jonathan Greenblatt, Department of State’s Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan, Alex Montoya, Angel Cabrera, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown and Don Wildman, National Geographic’s Robert Reid, Minerva Project’s Robin Goldberg, and iHeartMedia’s James Howard. Hats off to The White House’s Fran Holuba for spearheading the conference.