My name is Kristen Bloom, and I am a Study Abroad Coordinator at Mississippi State University. I studied and lived abroad for 7 years in Chile, Peru, and Japan, and it completely changed my worldview. It was incredible to be immersed in other cultures for so long. It made me really appreciate all of the opportunities I have been given. It also made me realize how lucky I am to have been born in the United States. However, I also learned that despite differences in language, creed, ethnicity, and cultural beliefs, people are people everywhere. It was these experiences that encouraged me to pursue my master's degree in International Education. Now as a Study Abroad Coordinator, it is my job to encourage other students to study abroad. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against me. Nationally, Mississippi sends the least amount of students abroad every year. Out of more than 15,000 undergraduate students, Mississippi State University sends less than 200 students abroad each year. That is less than 1% of our students. We are working hard to promote study abroad. The president of our university has said that by 2017, he wants to increase participation in study abroad by 20%. We have also recently committed to the Generation Study Abroad challenge through IIE. We have teamed up with academic advisors and department heads on campus. However, many of our students have never even left the state, let alone the country. Many students are scared to go abroad, or they have no desire to go abroad. In addition, their parents are scared to send them abroad, or they do not see the value in spending so much money to send their child abroad. We are also fighting our demographics. Many of our students receive a lot of financial aid and/or are first generation college students. Many of our students simply cannot afford the hefty price tag associated with studying abroad. As a result of all of these factors, we have a really hard time encouraging students to study abroad. Therefore, my question for Mrs. Obama is what would she say to students (and their parents) to convince them to study abroad?
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