Each year, participation in study abroad is one of the key statistics that colleges proudly share in their recruitment communications. This feels more important than ever, as we attempt to help our students develop critical intercultural competencies for navigating the larger world. Though many students express interest in studying abroad at some point during college, as the Institute of International Education noted in What Will It Take to Double Study Abroad? (November 2014), cost, culture, and curriculum present real barriers to doing so. For others, it can also be challenging to fit an international experience into their busy lives. What happens, though, when you give a student the chance to internationalize their college education, even before setting foot on campus? In summer 2016, the University of Oregon (UO) did just that. Admitted first-year students (age 18 or older) were given the opportunity to participate in a four-week program coordinated specifically for incoming, new students. Key to the program’s success was the partnership between the UO study abroad office, Global Education Oregon (GEO), and several offices in Enrollment Management, including Admissions, Orientation, Registrar and Financial Aid. As we prepare to repeat the program, what we’ve learned is worth sharing.
- On-site support: One important reason for choosing London was the presence of the GEO London Centre and staff which offered the same level of support to London program participants that on-campus freshmen would have received in their first “college” situation. Students lived in a residence hall (located a short distance from the Centre) with a UO Resident Assistant.
- Academics: Students enrolled in a set of classes perfectly matched to the location. Two four-credit courses (London: Biography of a City and The Play’s the Thing) were offered by GEO London Centre faculty; a one-credit course, Advancing Your Academic Success, was led by a UO faculty member, to help students develop time management skills and proper study habits.
- Schedule/experiences: Active, experiential learning is an important fit for this group of students. Students were in class Monday-Thursday, with integrated excursions held every Friday. Balancing time in and out of the classroom is key.
Once program elements were planned, GEO connected with Enrollment Management to set things in motion. Admissions promoted the program to prospective students and their counselors, plus helped GEO select applicants and fine-tune the calendar for applying/notification within NACAC guidelines and the university’s overall goals. Financial Aid and the Registrar’s Office oversaw communication and planning about credits and aid eligibility since students participating on the London program would enroll one term earlier than originally planned. And Orientation folded this into the overall process of helping these students get off to a smooth start on a calendar that meshed well with the program dates.
Interest in studying in London prior to the start of freshman year surpassed expectations. In fact, it was quickly evident to Admissions that this program would be a positive factor in students choosing to attend Oregon, and that this would even be true for students who didn’t apply for the summer 2016 program. Students were offered a spot in the program on a timeline that was compatible with the May 1 decision date, since it was only to be available to those choosing to enroll at Oregon.
In addition to the strong collaboration across offices, the prospect of keeping culture shock to a minimum in London, and the opportunity to be part of a small cohort contributed to the program’s success. While this first experience was a success that other institutions can follow, Oregon sees opportunities for additional refinement of this type of programming. For additional insights, please contact the authors.
Lisa Calevi, Institutional Relations Manager, Global Education Oregon (GEO)firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Rawlins, Assistant Vice President and Director of Admissions, University of Oregon email@example.com
A quarter of University of Oregon undergraduates study abroad at least once during their college career. The institution remains above national and Pac-12 averages, but aims to increase international mobility opportunities and participation.
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