Foreign affairs and geography facts: What do college students know?

Today’s world is more interconnected than ever, meaning that current events have much more of an impact on our day-to-day lives. A recent National Geographic survey, however, found that college students might need a bit of help in the areas of geography and foreign affairs.

I know it can seem like an impossible task to keep up with everything that is going on in the world, but read on for the things you need to know to improve your global literacy.

Geography survey results

The survey was a joint effort of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Geographic Society. The groups asked more than 1,200 people, ages 18 to 26, who had attended a two- or four-year college in the U.S., 75 questions centered on current events, foreign affairs, and geography. The average score for participants of the National Geographic survey was 55 percent.

Despite the failing grade from college students, those surveyed indicated a strong interest in wanting to know more and increase their understanding of current events. In fact, 72 percent of those who took the survey expressed that topics such as foreign affairs were becoming more important to them. So, you know that there are more things you need to know, but the trick is to learn what information you are missing and how can you do better?

What else is missing?

Not all the news from the National Geographic survey of college students was bad. Basic geography questions were understood and answered correctly by most, as well as issues related to the environment. However, questions that demanded a more detailed understanding of geography, beyond matching a country to a continent, were problematic for many of the respondents.

Other things you need to know more about in terms of foreign affairs fell into the areas of economics and trade. Questions that focused on immigration issues were also answered incorrectly. For instance, many college students did not know that Canada was the biggest trade partner of the U.S., not China, or that the number of Mexicans leaving the U.S. is higher than the number trying to immigrate into the country.

One of the downsides of this lack of awareness is the impact it can have on political decisions for college students. If nothing else, the people connected with the National Geographic survey hope that this study will spark a conversation among college students about the importance of foreign affairs.

Maximize your global knowledge

As college students, you can increase your awareness of current events by paying attention to the news, but also by connecting with and building relationships with other students around the world. Foreign study has traditionally been a great way to learn more about another culture, but today with Twitter, Skype and other social media, the possibilities have opened up even more. Why not suggest linking to a class in another country to discuss current events and foreign affairs? That way both parties can benefit and raise awareness of the things you need to know about in our interconnected world.

There’s even an app for increasing your participation in foreign affairs! The United Nations has created a mobile app that provides information on their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). According to the UN, the app provides “SDG targets, explanatory videos, key data, and suggestions on how people can take action to help achieve them.”

How do you think your knowledge of foreign affairs and geography ranks? Let us know in the comments.

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