Robert Lopez has feasted on feijoada, the Brazilian national dish. He's witnessed Brazilian soccer hysteria from the stands of Mineirao Stadium. And he's toured the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico.
He's done all of this while working toward a degree at Kansas University.
"I wish I could spend all my college career abroad," said the KU senior who has studied in Brazil and Mexico. "I think you learn more when you study abroad than when you sit around a classroom with 30 people from Johnson County who haven't been outside the United States and don't have that broader knowledge."
Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Nelson Galle agrees. Galle is proposing an ambitious policy that would require all traditional four-year college students at the state's six universities to receive some type of international experience before they graduate. That experience could entail living, working or studying abroad.
"Is this policy expensive? Yes." Galle said. "Is this policy necessary? Absolutely."
It's not in writing yet, but Galle said he hopes to establish it as a formal policy sometime in the future. He wants university administrators and others to begin thinking about it now.
"This is something that the university and the students need to work out together," he said.
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Galle, who studied in Turkey 50 years ago, said Kansas is like an island.
"Compared to the rest of the world, we have very few people, no pollution, no traffic problems," he said. "We are living in a flat world. I think it's absolutely necessary to have an international experience in high school or college or somewhere along the way so that when you see things and read things, they make sense."
Currently, 23.5 percent of KU undergraduates study abroad during college. About 1,800 KU students studied outside the United States last year, according to KU's Office of Study Abroad.
Meeting Galle's goal would mean more than doubling that number to just under 4,000 students per year, said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, KU's study abroad director.
Aiming for 100 percent is a great goal, she said, but it would be costly.
"I think students want to go," Gronbeck-Tedesco said. "I don't think that's the problem. The problem that I hear is that it's hard to afford this experience."
Study abroad opportunities range from about $1,300 for a 10-day program in humanities and western civilization in London to more than $15,000 for a two-semester stint in Paris. Other yearlong stays can be cheaper, depending on the locale.
There are scholarships available, but more would be needed to support the effort that Galle is suggesting, Gronbeck-Tedesco said. It also would require additional support for study-abroad offices that oversee the students and programs, she said.
"I think, in general, the idea has some merit," said Joseph Steinmetz, dean of KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Steinmetz said he had not heard the details of Galle's idea, but, at first blush, it sounded like cost would be the main issue.
"If it was going to be mandatory, we'd have to make sure everyone had access to the ability to do this," he said.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway called the proposal an exciting goal.
"It'll be very difficult to achieve because of the costs involved, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to find a way to do it," he said.