Men at UT need to realize the value in studying abroad

David West Jr.

The gender gap between women and men studying abroad is staggering, as men are widely unrepresented in the statistics. Quite frankly, it’s time for men to pack their bags and follow the precedent set by women. In order to inspire change, study abroad coordinators must begin to pitch these opportunities to men by emphasizing the potential for financial gains through the skills acquired abroad. 

Over the course of the 2015–2016 academic school year, 3,763 UT students studied abroad, but only 41 percent were men. Nationally, only 32.7 percent of United States study abroad students during the 2016–2017 year were men, meaning an astonishing 67.3 percent were women.

“Men are more afraid to fail,” said Devin Walker, director of global leadership for UT’s  Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. “They’re not as comfortable being uncomfortable — studying abroad takes you out of your comfort zone and it takes control away from you.”

 Speaking from my own observations, men can be opposed to trying new things, and typically are very career driven and traditional. Men will continue to remotely consider studying abroad unless they are enlightened on the potential cash benefits of this opportunity.

“We (as men) don’t prioritize study abroad as an economic achievement,” said Brandon Pegram, an acting junior who has traveled abroad to both Beijing, China and Cape Town, South Africa.  “(Men) don’t talk about how studying abroad can progress careers and opportunities. (Men) look at it as just a trip.” To say the least, men have adopted a conventional perception on traveling abroad.

While women attend colleges at a higher rate than men do worldwide, undoubtedly contributing to the significant gap between men and women studying abroad, there may also be some underlying factors at play.

“A lot of the women I know are more motivated than the men that I know,” said biochemistry junior Brandon Okeke, who has also studied abroad in Beijing, China. “Women work together on their goals, whereas men work on their own or won’t talk about what they’re working on.”

 Additionally, Walker highlights, “women have to seek out more opportunities because we live in an inequitable and sexist environment.”

 I second this stance wholeheartedly — women tend to be  more opportunistic and open-minded than men, and this is demonstrated by their willingness to study abroad. 

“Part of it is a deficiency amongst men, but part of it is also a positive amongst women due to women being more assertive in going after (what they want),” said Walker. 

Men specifically need to adopt this open-minded mentality.

 Unquestionably, though, in addition to adjusting their perspective, finances are another pivotal factor in why men are not traveling abroad — but not so much in terms of paying for the trip itself.  Right now, universities are taking the wrong approach when pitching study abroad to men specifically.

In order to get more men to study abroad, international offices must shift the conversation to long-term financial gain. They must emphasize how traveling abroad can increase annual salaries through the skills developed as a result of being out of your comfort zone.

No longer can we approach men with dialogue regarding life-changing experiences.

Men are money-driven to a fault, and if the potential for money down the line is not communicated, men will continue to be less represented on study abroad trips. Study abroad opportunities must be marketed to men differently.

“Men don’t apply because they don’t see the value in gaining cultural knowledge, because in most male’s minds that doesn’t make money or dollars,” Pegram said.

You’ve heard it before — if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.

 West Jr. is a journalism sophomore from New Orleans, Louisiana.