Rick Steves: Study Abroad a “Necessity”

Long-time writer, television host and all-around travel dork Rick Steves made some unexpected waves last week when he declared that “Study abroad is a necessity, not a luxury” article in a USA Today opinion piece. His opening lines were:

Even in challenging economic times, making sure that study abroad is part of our college students’ education is a vital investment. If we want a new generation of leaders and innovators who can be effective in an ever more globalized world, sending our students overseas is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.

I’d imagine that nearly everyone in international education would support Rick’s general idea here (i.e., that more students should study abroad) – and it’s always nice to have someone come from the outside and  advocate. His op-ed piece was perhaps lacking in spec

ifics and even more so in solutions. In practice, though, students are deterred from study abroad for a host of varied and individualized reasons. What’s holding your students back? I have included the two most common roadblocks to international education in Texas, and possible solutions for reference:

Financial Reasons – Even if the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act were passed tomorrow, it’s hard to imagine that 2% participation rate rising much above a couple percentage points at most. Dependent on their home institution’s policies, advisors are constrained as to what they cam do. With that said, educating students about scholarship opportunities and advisement on lower-cost programs can help.

Curriculum or Credit Transfer ReasonsUniversities with clearly-articulated policies for study abroad that are well-understood by staff/faculty – not to mention students – are likely to send more abroad. This requires coordination with different parts of campus (Financial Aid, Registrar, VP of Academic/Student Affairs, etc.). Once policies are finalized, your goal is to educate everyone on campus as to what they are – and why it matters.

While one should never rule out top-down institutional change entirely, it’s more likely that participation will grow incrementally and as a direct result of your efforts.

11 Urban Railways in Brazil

South America’s largest country is home to a new crop of projects designed to promote urban mobility in advance of the World Cup in 2014. Indeed, Brazil’s cities have are home to a new generation of subway, commuter rail, light rail and monorail projects.

1. São Paulo – Known simply as the “Metro” to commuters, the Metropolitano São Paulo consists of five lines, 63 stations and carries 3,600,000 passengers a day. The system, opened in 1974, is modern and the largest in South America in terms of ridership, it’s 61km is not considered sufficient for a city of over 16 million. New lines and stations have been built in advance of the World Cup in 2014. Additionally, the Metro connects to a commuter rail known as the the CPTM (Companhi Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM) that serves the greater São Paulo area that was completed in 1992. Together, the two systems carry 5.2 million people each day.

2. Rio de Janeiro – Founded in 1979, Metrô Rio is a partially underground railway that carries 580,000 commuters each day – or 5% of commuters. The second-largest rail network in Brazil, it covers 47km and is divided into two lines and 25 stations. A condition of being awarded the Olympics, the metro is currently undergoing a massive expansion that aims to increase ridership to 1,100,000 a day by 2016. Additionally, the 8-line commuter rail called SuperVia. which carries an additional 510,000 passengers each day, is being upgraded as well.

3. Belo Horizonte – The Metrô de Belo Horizonte consists of one above-ground line that carries 145,000 passengers. Construction began on its first of 19 stations in 1981 and commercial service in 1986. However, the vast majority of BH’s 5.5 million inhabitants, rely on buses and taxis.

4. Brasília – Commissioned in 2001, the Metrô de Brasília is the two-line and 29-station urban rail system that carries 150,000 passengers daily. Construction began in 2009 on a Light Rail Transit (LRT) extension connecting downtown to the airport in hopes it will be completed by 2014.

5. Porto Alegre – The Metrô de Porto Alegre began operation in 1985. It began as a commuter rail built to serve Porto Alegre’s northern suburbs, and still only consists of one line and 17 stations. Commonly called the “trem,” the system carries some 130,000 commuters daily and covers 33.5km of track.

6. Recife – The Metrô do Recife is a rapid transit system consisting of two lines, 29 stations and serving 210,000 people each day. Recife’s metro began operation in 1985, and will be the second largest metro in Brazil after São Paulo.

7. Teresina – The single-line Metrô de Teresina is the smallest urban rail system in Brazil and has been in operation since 1990. The 9 stations and 13.5 miles of track carry up to 20,000 people on an average day.

8. Cariri – Adjacent to Fortaleza in northeast Brazil, the Metrô do Cariri is an above-ground light rail system that carries 1,000 daily. The single-line system consists of 9 stations and 13.6km of track, and was completed in 2010.

9. Maceió (under construction)The Metropolitano de Maceió is a single-line light rail system that will connect Maceió to its northern suburbs.

10. Fortaleza (under construction) – Currently under construction, the Metrô de Fortaleza is rapid transit system and is expected to be completed in mid-2012. The two-line light rail system will consist of 43 miles of track between the cities of Fortaleza, Caucaia, Marazion and Pacatuba. When all stages are completed after 2014, the “Metrofor” is expected to transport up to 700,000 each day.

11. Salvador (under construction) – Projected to begin operation in 2012, the Metrô de Salvador consists of two lines and 19 stations.

Lima’s New Metro System

Among Latin America’s capital cities, public transportation (or the lack thereof) is by far the worst. The first public transportation system in at least thirty years are up and running now, and change is in the air.

The long-awaited Lima Metro system is now a reality. Known to locals as the “Tren Eléctrico,” it will first connects central Lima to the southern part of the city. Line 1 consists of 16 stations and 22km of mostly elevated rail that, two weeks after opening, carries 140,000 passengers each day. There are plans for 11 more stations and, eventually, four additional lines planned that will supposedly run throughout the city by 2025. While Line 1 is elevated, planners suggest Lines 2-5 will be underground. Construction began President Alan Garcia’s first administration in 1987, but was suspended due to chronic corruption, mismanagement and an enormous $100m budget shortfall.

In addition to rail, Lima also opened a Bus Rapid Transit Construction (BRT) system in 2010 known as the Metropolitano. Inspired by Bogotá’s successful Transmilenio system, it used by 370,000 commuters daily. There are plans to open a east-west line known as Metropolitan II next year.

Both developments are most welcome to Lima, no doubt, but remain limited in scope. The question is what comes next. Because the Metro and Metropolitano are overseen by two different authorities, plans for expansion compete and overlap. What is needed is a single authority that will decide whether the priority should be further BRT lines, or if Lima should build an underground subway system in the spirit of Buenos Aires or Mexico City.

My Interview on Inside Study Abroad!

Check out this video of Brooke Roberts and I for a conversation about study abroad shop. Always great to connect with someone else who understands the need to wander and explore!

I hope she keeps this Skype interview series on Inside Study Abroad going!