The PIE: Do you think there’s a growing appetite for studying abroad in the US?
SK: I think that increasingly and globally students realise that having a global perspective and an understanding for different cultures is very important. Whether that means study abroad or taking the time to engage with international students or students from different backgrounds on your campus is very important. My sense is that whether it’s short term or long term, students want to have opportunities to live or study abroad increasingly.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a “don’t want to study abroad”, just that there are also great opportunities in the US”
The PIE: Do you think US education is helping push that? The American study abroad population is still dramatically underrepresented compared with the German or Swiss for example.
SK: Yeah, that’s a good point. What you do find is more and more schools setting up campuses and branches abroad. And there are some great examples of that. We also see that there are other ways to accomplish this, such as 2+2 programs or sister schools, and many American universities are interested in forging these. But I think we have a way to go; I think there continues to be the need to encourage and properly position the importance of another language, another culture and living abroad.
Having myself lived abroad for several years, I found that in many ways I benefited from interacting with different cultures and it’s sort of played out now. I work with a team in Beijing on a daily basis and if four years ago I had not had the opportunity to engage I would be in a much weaker position right now.
The PIE: What do you think is behind the low US study abroad rates?
SK: Well I think a thing to consider is that there’s a kind of surplus of higher education in the States. If you live in another country, China for example, they have doubled the number of universities in the past five years but they still do not have enough to meet demand. Whereas when you have a system of higher education that’s relatively strong, such as in the US, you know globally it’s compelling to stay in the States.
“We want to continue providing meaningful tools for students in the US but also China and other countries”
That’s why I don’t know if it’s necessarily a “don’t want to study abroad”, just that there are also great opportunities domestically. But as growing markets continue to beef up their own systems you may see more Americans study abroad, in China for example.
The PIE: You think that’s likely?
SK: I think so. In five, ten years down the road it will all look very different and you may find more Chinese students studying domestically too. It’s still a small percentage, less than about half a per cent, of Chinese that studies in America.
The PIE: What does the future hold for Zinch?
SK: We will continue to be laser-focused on providing value to students and we hope that will continue globally to be the case. We want to not only continue providing meaningful tools and services for students in the US but also China and other countries.
The PIE: Which country will Zinch target next?
SK: Several countries are a big opportunity. We hear from schools that are very interested in India, Brazil and Latin America in general. Within South East Asia there are opportunities in South Korea and in other smaller markets like Indonesia and Vietnam, so we’ll see!