Study Abroad offers overseas travel option for faculty, staff
By Liz White, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-2848
This year USC’s Study Abroad Office is offering a chance for faculty and staff to experience study abroad firsthand, from different perspectives. During spring break, faculty and staff will travel to Europe to learn about students’ experiences and opportunities overseas.
Jennifer Engel, director of Study Abroad, will be leading the group on the International Perspectives on Higher Education program along with Jimmie Gahagan, director of Student Engagement. She spoke with USC Times about the new program and her expectations for it.
Why did Study Abroad start this program?
We were looking for different ways to promote study abroad across campus but also give people an inside look into what study abroad is all about, particularly if they had never done it before. We were finding that a lot of our colleagues were encouraging students to study, do research or get involved in service learning abroad but had never had the chance to go overseas when they were in college. We wanted to provide an experience for staff that was enriching for them personally but that also helped them better understand what study abroad is all about.
How does this program apply to faculty then?
We have seen a real surge in interest among faculty who have an interest in developing programs and taking groups of students overseas. In talking with potential faculty leaders, there are many who have traveled a lot and are ready to jump in. But there are others who want to see what such a program is like on the ground, from an operational perspective, before they lead a group abroad themselves.
What will the program consist of exactly?
There will be pre-departure classes to prepare participants from a logistical standpoint as well as to provide a theoretical understanding of the differences between higher education and student affairs in the United States and in Spain and France. During the weeklong travel component, we will be meeting with the resident directors who manage the study abroad program sites we will be visiting, listening to lectures from local faculty as they discuss higher education in France, Spain and the European Union, and giving participants a taste of Spanish and French culture via excursions. The program will touch on a number of different themes, with the overarching intent to live the student experience.
Where will the travelers be visiting in Spain and France? Why?
Spain and France are two of the top study abroad destinations for our students. We’ll be visiting three typical study abroad sites in Pau, France, and San Sebastián and Bilbao, Spain – each with integrated intern, teaching and service learning opportunities. These are programs that that have hosted a number of our students over the years. Participants will be able to see what the students are doing on a day-to-day basis: where they are going on their cultural excursions, what their classrooms are like, and where they live. Participants will also be able to meet with the students while they are there and hear what they are experiencing in the moment. The program will expose participants to the study abroad sites themselves but also give them the chance to observe the student experience while it’s happening.
Are there any guidelines for who can participate?
The program is designed for faculty who have an interest in leading a student group and want to get an inside perspective on what happens on the ground, or who haven’t been to that particular region of the world yet. It is also for student affairs professionals and academic advisers who may have limited experience outside of the United States but support the concept of study abroad and want to have that experience for themselves.
What do you hope comes from this experience?
The goals of this program support the university’s USC Connect and Focus Carolina initiatives as they relate to increasing the number of students who study abroad and helping students connect their coursework, international experiences and future careers. I would like participants to return to campus with a better understanding of what study abroad is all about and what opportunities are available to students -- and then be able to articulate that to students, colleagues and parents and encourage student participation in international education -- in a different kind of way, from firsthand experience.
Applications are due Nov. 1. More information about the program is available on the Study Abroad website http://studyabroad.sc.edu.
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