Provost Joan Gabel began her position as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at USC Columbia in August of 2015, after leaving her position as Senior Dean at the Robert J. Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri. Provost Gabel has also held numerous professorships at various other institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
The Education Abroad Office asked Provost Gabel to share insights gained from her
international education experiences. Her responses included personal anecdotes as
well as her reasons for why students should take advantage of such opportunities while
studying at USC.
SAO: Can you please give us a brief summary of where you studied abroad, what you studied,
and why you chose that location?
PG: I studied for an academic year at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I chose that location because I didn't think my French was good enough for complete immersion and at McGill, I could take the courses in my major in English and then do several hours per day in French.
SAO: What is a favorite memory from your time in Montreal?
PG: Montreal is gorgeous and I have memories of blizzards and maple sugar candy and walks through the old city - but my favorite memory is sitting in a classroom waiting for a lecture to start and listening to two francophone faculty chat in the hall and realizing that I was understanding everything they were saying. It was an incredible moment to realize all the hard work took me where I wanted to go.
SAO: Can you regale us with a time you made a language faux pas while either studying
or traveling abroad?
PG: There are too many - false cognates and mixed messages. My favorite though was when I was taking students to Chile and thought I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich (in Spanish) and somehow was understood as wanting orange juice.
SAO: What is the one thing you wish you did while you were abroad, but didn’t?
PG: I wish I'd done a full immersion - I have no regrets about my time at McGill but I think I could have handled it and my French would have come much further.
SAO: If you could study abroad all over again, where would you go and why?
PG: I would still start with a place where I could master my second language because that was important to me - but I would have ventured out to other areas around me more so that I could see as much as possible while I was away. I'm a huge believer in using time abroad to get out of one's comfort zone (safely) and see that everything will still be okay.
SAO: How do you use skills gained during your study abroad experience in your current
job (or previous jobs)?
PG: I use my languages occasionally - but my best skill is my ability to move between cultures with fewer faux pas. I still make them but so much less than I did before I traveled.
SAO: What are the most important global skills that a USC student should possess?
PG: Gamecock travelers should be strong ambassadors of our mission and Carolina Creed wherever they are - but around the world that takes on an additional need to be respectful, aware, open-minded, careful and ready to take in what the world brings.
SAO: Can you please give 3 reasons why USC students should study abroad?
PG: 1) To increase one's understanding of and respect for our differences. 2) To understand one's ability to navigate through uncertainty successfully. 3) To appreciate how amazing and beautiful the world truly is.
For more information, visit the Office of the Provost, or for international education opportunities through our office, visit Steps to Study Abroad and Opportunities for USC Faculty and Staff.