How Studying in the U.S. Develops a Global Mindset

Global Mindset

Global Mindset

A “global mindset” means many things: a broad worldview; a sensibility and sensitivity to cultural difference, knowledge of a foreign language, international experience.  Students who study abroad – who study in the U.S. – bring their unique cultural experience and worldviews to our campuses and local communities.  The diversity of our society adds great value to the experience of international students.

A recent blog post for NAFSA commented about a meeting of business leaders in New York discussing the need for employees to have a global mindset and cultural skills in addition to the more technical skills needed in today’s workforce.  Frits van Paassachen, CEO and president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., said that one of the biggest disadvantages of being a U.S. company is the lack of Americans who understand how to communicate in other languages or function in other cultures. He said the company relocated their headquarters to China for a few weeks in no small part, he said, to improve the company’s global mindset.  Jeff Joerres, chairman, CEO, and president of Manpower Inc., another panelist at the meeting, said that companies, “are all stewards of global capital,” and that the lack of globally-minded employees is a social-skill issue that needs to be addressed. 

There’s a growing recognition that above and beyond the degree itself, international students are studying in the U.S. to better prepare themselves to live and work in a more complex and sophisticated global culture alongside colleagues in the workplace who also have studied abroad to widen their worldview.  The American campus is a terrific laboratory to train students for the nuanced marketplace they will enter after graduation.

Let’s place this issue in an international context:  As a destination, study in the U.S. remains at the top of the list for international students.  According to the recent annual survey of the Institute of International Education, total international student enrollment in the U.S. increased 5% in 2010/11 to a record high of 723,277 (Note that the total international student population studying outside their borders in 2009 reached 3.9 million). Global mobility of students is a fact of life with implications for the global workforce and the career development of students on every continent. 

A key driver in the expanded mobility of students is the economic development and growth of nations whose economies and widening trade relations demand more skilled labor. This market is strongest, in particular, for international students seeking further education and training in the “STEM” fields –science, technology, engineering and math. The U.S. has some of the world’s best universities in these fields.

For the past sixty years, American campuses have developed especially vibrant and diverse institutional practices and programs to support the academic and personal needs of international students.  The U.S. stands alone in having institutionalized student support services for the international student.  As higher education has become a more globalized industry and as student mobility has opened up enrollment in educational institutions around the world, there has been increasing emphasis on a broader range of services to support the needs of international students to enter the global marketplace after graduation. 

There’s a strong linkage between international experience and employability.  Colleges and universities need to educate students to thrive and succeed in both international and domestic markets. Gaining international experience, internationalized curriculum, intercultural learning opportunities domestically and internationally, and developing a “global mindset” through such experiences – all can have an important impact on local and regional economic development in any country.

Efforts to internationalize campuses – largely through increased enrollment of international students - has risen dramatically in recent years.  New curriculum and off-campus programs have been developed to provide more purposeful and structured intercultural experience for international students to strengthen the skills and competencies employers are looking for to build their global workforces, whether those experiences are in U.S. communities, other countries or their own nations.


Search our directory of U.S. degree programs


Martin Tillman is president of Global Career Compass. Global Career Compass navigates career pathways for students and international education professionals.