Anyone concerned with promoting wider participation in study abroad by students with disabilities, or anyone who just needs some encouragement to keep facing hard challenges head-on, should rush to read Susan Sygall's terrific personal memoir, No Ordinary Days: A Journey of Activism, Globe-Trotting, and Unexpected Pleasures. The co-founder of Mobility International USA (MIUSA), Susan and her organization already have made available a wide range of resources online at www.miusa.org and in print and offer workshops and conference panels to help all of us do a better job of expanding access to study abroad. But having just downloaded and sped through her new book, I was inspired all over again by her words, and her life story.
By my count, representatives from more than 400 organizations and universities from around the world helped to fill the NAFSA conference expo space to capacity. There were many good messages about welcoming U.S. students and innovative study abroad and internship programs. Many made a special effort to point out just how many courses and programs are now taught entirely in English. That is good news, and bad.
Randi Butler on
Monday, May 18, 2015
Studying abroad was never something I planned on doing. I knew such a thing existed, but to me it existed in a realm of things I didn’t perceive as meant for me. I was a first generation college student and even attending college didn’t seem like something someone like me would do; it was for other kids. I nearly dropped out several times. After two years of near-daily encouragement from my favorite professor, I finally began to consider study abroad as something meant for me, too.
Recently over 3,000 people gathered to roam the cyber halls of the inaugural Virtual Study Abroad Fair hosted by the U.S. Department of State, College Week Live, and the Institute of International Education. This online event got me thinking about whether or not technology actually can make it easier for different people around the globe to truly connect, share resources, and exchange ideas. There are those of us who would complain about the depersonalization caused by social media and the divide that digital media creates between individuals and real life experiences. And I have, on occasion, wondered if my constant internet use, emails, and social media posts have put distance between myself and everyone else in the world.
“I'd rather be in Philadelphia"
For some reason this is what President Reagan said (quoting the humorist W.C. Fields) after being shot. I had good reason to agree last month after speaking at the opening of the 31st Ivy League Model United Nations Conference (ILMUNC) organized by University of Pennsylvania students.
“What does one wear to the White House?” was one tweet I read as I prepared for a truly unique DC event. On Tuesday, December 9, I joined 100 of our country’s most influential travel bloggers—from big players like Yahoo Travel to start-ups like Adventure Girl—for the White House Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. For IIE and our colleague organizations, the topic is so close to our hearts: how do we encourage young Americans to study, volunteer, and work abroad?
This year's CIEE annual conference addressed the "three Cs" that are making it hard for our students to study abroad: Cost, Curriculum, and Culture. It was my privilege to speak at the luncheon, which was then devoted to working groups to come up with ideas on how to reduce obstacles in each area. Many good ideas were reported and will be shared as part of CIEE’s commitment to IIE's Generation Study Abroad initiative, which also included a generous package of $20 million in scholarships and actions designed to help students throughout the United States to take advantage of international opportunities.
Three weeks before IIE's fall Generation Study Abroad commitment deadline, I packed a suitcase full of newly released IIENetworker magazines and flew back to Oregon, my home state. My destination was Idealist.org headquarters in Portland, where PDX Abroad had gathered 26 higher education professionals from Oregon and Washington to hold a Generation Study Abroad Think Tank. The event, which was modeled after IIE's March 2014 roundtable discussion titled "What Will it Take To Double Study Abroad?" was the first such event organized spontaneously.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
“Study abroad” has a strong connotation among some audiences of being fluff and fun, irrelevant to academic study and accessible only to the wealthy. The term itself does not reflect the breadth of study abroad options that have evolved over the years; it is outdated and needs to be changed to reflect the new reality of “study abroad.” In our outreach campaigns, Generation Study Abroad needs to work to rebrand “study abroad” as something that is serious preparation for living and working in today’s global economy, and can encompass internships, volunteering, and service learning abroad as well as classroom experience.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
The theory is that if "international" is a box that institutions have to check, or a question that they have to address, as they seek accreditation, then it will naturally get the attention of senior level administrators and faculty. With this attention, curricular changes, resource allocation, and measurable international experiences—including U.S. study abroad—will follow.