I recently interviewed the Director of my university’s global center. My capstone project is about determining ways to make study abroad more affordable, in order to make it more accessible to a greater number of students. My goal for the interview was to get an overview of the university’s Study Abroad function, as it currently exists. Questions and answers are summarized below:
- What are the objectives of the Study Abroad function? Study abroad is a critical element of students’ education since so many career options now have a global component. The Study Abroad Advisors guide students to opportunities that will promote language acquisition, cross-cultural awareness, and networking. Reflection: I agree with this response and would like to add that a Study Abroad Advisor can provide tremendous support in ensuring that a study abroad experience has a positive outcome for a student.
- How do you determine where to offer Study Abroad programs? The best way is when a faculty member has an interest in a region and establishing a relationship with a specific institution. Each year, we create about five new study abroad programs. Reflection: Programs are more likely to have departmental and the Dean’s support when they are faculty-driven.
- How do you decide what organization (such as the Goethe or Confucius Institute) to partner with? College departments survey students and when new groups are identified, we investigate them and find out if we share similar goals. Reflection: Many of these organizations offer scholarships for study abroad. A review of these quasi-governmental and NGO organizations may reveal additional sources of funding for students.
- What is the typical location or region for study abroad students? European countries, specifically France, Germany, and Italy. Reflection: This makes sense for military students since there are bases that they can visit in these countries with study abroad programs. However, in terms of affordability, Europe is pricey. I should examine currency and cost-of-living rates to identify more affordable destinations for students.
- What are your plans to expand these locations? There is a large push to expand the military locations and offer more foreign exchange between military academies. Also there is increased interest in international internships and service learning opportunities. Reflection: It makes sense to expand in ways that help to make students career ready.
- Why do students study abroad? It is fun and they can get college credit while expanding their world views. Reflection: It’s helpful to understand student motivation before devising a solution.
- What keeps students from studying abroad? Primarily the price and finances; followed by parent anxiety, military commitments, time, terrorism, etc. Reflection: The Director confirmed that price in the greatest inhibiting factor for students interested in studying abroad. So if I can find ways to make study abroad more affordable, more students will pursue these opportunities.
- What support do you provide for student safety during study abroad? Student safety is our #1 priority. We conduct site visits and have a staff member or representative of the university on site. In case of emergency, we have a communication protocol that will include extracting students from a foreign country if their safety is jeopardized. Reflection: I anticipate that I will have to find a balance between affordable and safe study abroad options.
- How do you market study abroad opportunities to students? Mostly through social media. Reflection: It seems like it would be beneficial to students to communicate with them early in college, so that they’ve planned ahead how study abroad will fit in their course schedules. Consider information for new student and transfer student orientations.
- Post-study abroad, what do students cite as the most meaningful part of their trips? The Welcoming Ceremony, life-altering experiences, and the connections they make. Reflections: Consider communicating post-trip comments to the student body so it came help students envision how study abroad will benefit them.
This interview helped me get an overview of the Study Abroad function. I think it will also be worthwhile to visit the web sites of other university study abroad centers to see what support they offer their students to make Study Abroad more affordable. This could be of tremendous value to benchmark the study abroad function. After all, information is power!