Behind the study abroad process


By MARY BURGERSTAFF WRITER

While up to 85 percent of students at Centre study abroad, few know the details of how these trips are designed and implemented.

Study abroad would not happen without the support of the faculty and administration,” Director of International Programs and Special Assistant to the President Milton Reigelman said. “That is one of the most crucial portions.”

In order for a study abroad trip to be availabe, the program must be carefully analyzed by several committees and faculty members.

To begin, the Off-Campus Programs Committee reads faculty evaluations, discusses, and then makes a recommendation for a program.

From there, the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Standards looks at the curriculum and makes a recommendation to the entire faculty. A faculty-wide vote is the final step in the selection of a new long-term program.

While this procedure may seem simple, the entire process typically takes about two years.

Financially speaking, it is difficult for Centre to add semester programs. Since availability of funds is a crucial element, Centre currently could only add another semester program if it dropped another.

Economically, the College cannot reduce the number of staff to compensate for abroad students. Therefore, when considering a new program, the College must make sure that it is affordable for itself and the students.

For students hoping to study abroad, there are several varying financial options to help make the semester trips more affordable.

The Davidson Fund, for example, is one non-application based option, which can subsidize the $375 nonrefundable deposit and also accommodate for airfare. The Senior Subsidy is another affordability option.

However, the amount a student may receive varies per student, with the largest receiving around $2,000 and the lowest $300.

The discrepency is based off of the Expected Family Contribution and the amount of financial aid the individual student already receives from the College.

Outside of financial issues, course selection and curriculum standards also take a great deal of preparation.

Course selection for semester study abroad courses requires extensive background research and consideration. Additionally, the course must only be able to be taught in that country.

In order to pass a particular course, individual professors need to know the destination well enough to be able to cater their course to that region. The city or country in and of itself, must make up a necessary component to academics so that the area is an intricate part of the study experience. These plans are usually created roughly two years prior to the trip

Once programs are selected and planned, students then must go through an application process to be selected to attend.

The student selection process for semester long trips is based off of a points system. There are four factors that go into this system: class year, GPA, the essay, and faculty recommendations.

Seniors automatically get four points in order to give them a leg up,” Assistant Director of the Center for Global Citizenship Leigh Cocanougher said.

Different professors weigh these other options differently. For example, the program in Strasbourg also factors in a gender ratio to accomodate apartment and homestay arrangements.

When the time comes for the semester to begin, the professors leading the trip often arrive a week in advance to organize housing, finances, and familiarize themselves with the general layout of the area.

During the time abroad, professors will not only teach classes, but also handle student finances through individual deposits and withdrawals at the bank in the country. By doing this, students will be able to receive their stipends from the College for transportation and food.

The stipend amounts are set by the professors hosting each program and are based on the trip’s specific budget.

In contrast to the semester long trips, CentreTerm programs follow a different pattern.

Rather than planning on a two year timetable, professors write proposals the October before the academic year in which the trip would be conducted.

Students can approach faculty members if they have a regional interest, but these are most often based off of a professor’s individual expertise and interest.

The CenterTerm 2016 courses will officially be announced at the first campus-wide recruitment meeting on Nov. 24. Of the nine programs being considered, three are in Africa, three are in Asia, and three are in Central and South America.

Frank B. and Virginia B. Hower Associate Professor of International Studies and Chair of International Studies Program Dr. Lori Hartmann-Mahmud will lead “African Politics and Civil Society: The Case of Cameroon” this January. It will be her fourth time leading study abroad in Cameroon.

The most important aspect is finding a reliable person on the ground,” Dr. Hartmann-Mahmud said. “It’s not like I can call a travel agent and say set us up with meals and hotels. No, we pretty much have to do that on a daily bases and negotiate that every time.”

When she submitted her proposal in October of 2013, Dr. Hartmann-Mahmud had to include the itinerary, budget, and curriculum.

Her past experiences leading this trip made this an easier process. While some utilize an application, Dr. Hartmann-Mahmud talks one on one with interested students.

I want to make sure they are ready for an adventure and that if we get to a hotel and running water isn’t working, they won’t freak out. I want to make sure you’re ready for that,” Dr. Hartmann-Mahmud said. “Otherwise I don’t care what your major is, as long as you’re interested and set for that true adventure.”

She held meetings in May, October, September, and will have one more meeting before departure to discuss logistics and final details with the students.

While the process behind creating and planning a new study abroad program may be complicated, together these steps ensure that each student may have a safe and enjoyable study abroad experience.


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