Study Abroad Map

With holidays, and the start of the new year, I didn’t get a chance to announce my latest book, Study Abroad Map: The complete student guide to college beyond the USA. It’s really the fourth edition of Study Abroad 101, with a makeover that includes my new-founded investing knowledge. I analyze the cost-benefit of higher education today and go over all the different ways in which students can study in another country to maximize their education and minimize cost. I chose to publish through Amazon Publishing Direct this time, to see how it works. Going through my traditional POD channels is not cost effective for the amount of books that will probably sell. That said, I’m perfectly content with a lower profit margin in exchange for zero upfront or annual expenses. Thank you, Amazon.

My target audience is high school students thinking about college or college students thinking about studying abroad. Here’s an excerpt, one that is relevant to my latest posts with respect to the end of this long-term credit cycle.

What I have learned from my travels is the United States is not the good guy against a bunch of bad guys in the world. If you get out of the country you can see your American exceptionalism, and you’ll begin to understand the truth. The United States is not the big daddy taking care of everyone in the world; it’s an empire protecting its own interests, which now is to keep its biggest and most important export alive. What is that export? Of course, it’s the U.S. dollar. If other countries ditch the dollar, all that paper comes home, and that economic model of supply and demand will show up.

Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb was a British soldier, historian, and author. He studied eleven empires from the Assyrians in 859 B.C. to the British in 1950 A.D. [1] Each empire lasted between 207 to 267 years, and he figured out that each followed a remarkably similar pattern from beginning to end, which he articulated in the seven stages listed below:

  1. The Age of Pioneers (Outburst)
  2. The Age of Conquests
  3. The Age of Commerce
  4. The Age of Affluence
  5. The Age of Intellect
  6. The Age of Decadence
  7. The Age of Decline & Collapse

It sent chills down my spine when I first read about the seven stages of empire and tagged them through U.S. history. While the settlers arrived in the 1600s, pioneer life developed in two great migrations between 1760 and 1850. From the beginning of America’s pioneer age until now, 259 years have passed. Only one of the eleven empires that Glubb studied lasted longer than the United States, and that was the Mameluke Empire (1250-1517).

Decadence, the last stage of empire, is marked by defensiveness, pessimism, materialism, frivolity, an influx of foreigners, the Welfare State, and a weakening of religion. It is the result of too long a period of wealth and power, selfishness, love of money, and loss of a sense of duty. The U.S. became an empire by lending to the world, and it will collapse because it borrowed too much from the world.

When people realize that they’ve built their lives on sinking green paper (fool’s gold), and the U.S. dollar falls from its seat in the sky, they’ll remember the motto “In God we Trust,” and they’ll remember when gold was real money. In the meantime, you’ve got to figure out your future and how to maximize it through college. There’s the benefit-cost ratio, but there’s also the value of what you’ll gain from the experience. What are you going to learn? How is that going to help you in the future economy? And where will you be able to find work, if not in the United States?

More than being educated, you will have to be smart in the future job market. With the global nature of our workforce, intercultural knowledge and skills will be imperative. A 2014 survey of U.S. business needs for employees with international expertise found that almost 40% of companies surveyed missed global business opportunities because they lacked internationally competent personnel.[2] Missing business opportunities will not be an option when free money printing comes to an end.

I worked in the field of education abroad for a long time, and I know there is a widespread assumption among hiring agents that study abroad is a vacation where college students party hard. This can certainly be true, and I’ve seen plenty of it. Just as there are students going to college without any clue about what they want to do with their lives, there are students studying abroad with the same cluelessness. That said, if studying abroad is an option for you, be mindful about choosing the right experience and maximizing it. Critical thinking and analysis, as well as creativity and flexibility, are the best skills you can develop in college and the workforce.

Recently, from 2015/16 to 2016/17, the number of U.S. college students studying abroad increased 2.3% to a total of 332,727.[3] According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.76 million students attended colleges and universities in the Fall of 2017. Do the math and study abroad is about 3.4 percent. While this number is making administrators happy, a whopping 64.6% of student participation was through short-term programs (summer or less than eight weeks), many of which are highly structured and led by one or more professors. The top location was the United Kingdom (English speaking), and the second most popular was Italy. While Italy is a great country, students don’t learn much about Italians or their culture.

If my bias isn’t already apparent, I think it’s always more beneficial to find an experience that allows you time and ability to immerse in the culture. People with valuable international experience are more creative and better problem solvers; they are more likely to start new businesses, create products, and be promoted.[4] That said, a short-term study abroad program is certainly better than nothing, but there are plenty of superior options.

Picking a college or an international program is like investing in stocks or real estate.  Some stocks will take you to the moon, and others will flop miserably. Some real estate will profit bigly and some will cost you dearly. Just because you buy a stock or a piece of real estate or go to college doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed in life. Think carefully about the future and how your choices now will benefit you later. The best investment you will ever make is your own education.

[1] Sir John Glub. The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival. Accessed on October 22, 2019.

[2] 2014 U.S. Business Needs for Employees with International Expertise (Executive Summary). Accessed on October 6, 2019.

[3] 2018 Open Doors Report. An annual release by the Institute of International Education. Accessed on October 6, 2019. 

[4] Harvard Business Review, Be a Better Manager: Live Abroad (September, 2010).


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