Michelle Obama's reasons to study abroad

By CNN Staff | 3/25/2014, 11:38 a.m.

We live in the United States of America, where there's almost every culture, every language you can imagine right here on our soil. We can start by experiencing the diversity in our own communities. One good way to do that is through service to the community. But I have the utmost of confidence in your generation. You guys are already making me and my husband very proud. Just keep up the great work.

What lasting benefit does study abroad have on students once they return to the United States? -- Jack Burrus, Miami

Obama: The benefits of study abroad are almost endless. First of all, it's going to make you much more marketable here in the United States, because more and more companies are realizing that they need people with experiences around the world, who can speak different languages, who can transition easily into other cultures and people who bring to their jobs a sensibility and a sensitivity for other people.

It will also make you more compassionate. We could always use more compassionate, young leaders out there in the world, people who are willing to step outside their comfort zones and be open to wiping away misconceptions.

Especially for U.S. students, it's very hard to stay in your comfort zone when you're living in another country. When you're struggling with a language, new foods, learning directions, being forced to make friends and do things that you wouldn't normally do, that's going to set you up for a lifetime of value. It's going to make you a better parent. It's going to make you a better human being.

I want more young people like you to take that step. Try something new, travel abroad, and if you can't travel abroad, use the Internet to see the world.

How can we make foreign exchange opportunities available for all students and not just the affluent? -- Cate Thompson, Anderson, North Carolina

Obama: Great question, and thanks for your work teaching our kids. Keep it up. Making sure that all of our kids in the United States have access to opportunities to study abroad, regardless of their race or socioeconomic background, is going to be critical for us. One of the things that the President has done by promoting 100,000 Strong is work in partnership with institutions in the United States and abroad, and with U.S. companies, to increase the opportunities for more young people to study abroad, regardless of where they're from. One of the things that he and I talk about is the shared connection that we gain when we have educational exchange opportunities between countries that are enhanced by ensuring that the folks who represent the United States, represent all of the United States.

Kids like me, who grew up in a working-class background, grew up in a tiny apartment and went to public schools, there's a perspective that I uniquely have to share with the rest of the world. And the same is true for a kid growing up in a rural China or a kid who is a studying in Kenya. They need to have opportunities to travel the world because they are going to be our future leaders, and their voices are one that we have to hear as we continue to develop this world and continue to tackle the challenges that we will inevitably face.

Diversity is key, and we will continue to do all that we can here in this administration to continue to lift up opportunities and make them accessible for all of our young people.

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