American college students are ready. The number of students ages 16 to 24 who volunteer more than 100 hours a year has risen nearly 18 percent since 2002, according to the Points of Light Foundation. Community service centers are burgeoning at U.S. colleges and universities. The tremendous student response to domestic development programs such as Teach for America and AmeriCorps shows the untapped reservoir of passion and idealism in our college students and their seemingly unlimited capacity for challenging work. If such programs could be embedded into college curricula rather than saved for graduation - when students are struggling with career choices and college debt - their effect could be even greater.
Still, although half of all college-bound students say they would like to study abroad, only 1 percent of undergraduates eventually do so, and almost half of these choose the European favorites: Britain, France, Italy and Spain. According to Foreign Policy, in 2004, Italy alone attracted more American students than did Africa, Asia and the Middle East combined. We need to couple the cosmopolitan allure of study abroad with the grittier, practical needs of today's global economy.
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