2006 as the "Year of Study Abroad"

Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to support a Senate resolution designating 2006 as the “Year of Study Abroad.” This resolution encourages initiatives to promote and expand study abroad opportunities. Now more than ever, America needs citizens who can understand and communicate with people all over the world. However, fewer than 1 percent of all U.S. undergraduates participate in study abroad programs while nearly 600,000 international students from more than 200 countries study in the United States each year. The future of our Nation depends on our ability to prepare the next generation of leaders for an increasingly complex global society.

This resolution seeks to promote study abroad experiences as valuable opportunities for exposure to global knowledge and cultural understanding. An education that includes study abroad not only opens doors to careers, it opens minds and worlds of possibility. Study abroad can help students develop foreign language proficiency; improve decision making skills, and increase maturity and self-confidence. Such experience can also help heighten a student's cultural sensitivity. Put simply, an international education prepares U.S. citizens to live, work, and compete in the global economy. Studying abroad is also an effective way to promote the development of  a peaceful global community, increase international trade, and create goodwill towards the United States.

Congress recognized the importance of study abroad in 2004 when it established the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. The Commission was tasked with formulating a national program that would dramatically increase the number of American students studying abroad each year.  The Commission is scheduled to issue its recommendations on December 1 of the year . This resolution underscores the importance of  the Commission's work and builds on the message of International Education Week, November 14 to 18, 2005.

The future challenges that face all nations will require an unprecedented degree of understanding and cooperation among countries and their leaders. The experiences and lifelong friendships that result from studying abroad can help foster mutual understanding between the future leaders of the world. Such relationships and cooperation are vital for a secure and prosperous future, not only for the United States, but for the entire world.