UGA ranks 15th in the nation for study abroad among doctoral/research institutions, according to the national Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2011 list released Nov. 14. During the 2009-2010 school year, 1,994 UGA students studied globally.
Over the same time period, UGA ranked fourth in the nation in the number of students who participated in short-term programs (1,695 students). Additionally, 399 students chose a full semester or academic year abroad.
The Open Doors report is released each year during International Education Week, Nov. 14-18. The U.S. Departments of State and Education jointly sponsor the nationwide recognition.
“Study abroad is critical to students for a number of reasons,” said Kavita Pandit, associate provost for international education. “First, it forces students to listen, observe and reflect on what’s going on around them—all of which are critical to learning. They also experience personal growth and attain the quiet confidence that ‘I can do this,’ whether it’s to catch a bus or to learn a foreign language.
“Finally, study aboard gives them global skills and competencies that are critical for the work place” she also said. “There is no doubt that employers value study-abroad experience when they look at résumés.”
Change due to studying abroad isn’t limited to UGA students. The university sponsors more than 100 programs (running 60 to 80 of them in any given year) in 39 countries—including an every-other year trip to Antarctica—and faculty lead most of them.
“Teaching abroad opens up a lot of research opportunities for our faculty,” said study abroad director Kasee Laster. “I’ve had many faculty tell me that teaching abroad was the most personally satisfying and meaning opportunity of their careers.”
As study-abroad participation by both students and faculty increases, students are exploring less traveled countries in Africa andLatin America. And students in a greater variety of majors are learning globally as well.
Typically, the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and medicine—are so structured that undergraduates had felt they didn’t have the time or ability to take their education beyond campus grounds. That’s changing, said Carolina Robinson, study-abroad coordinator in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“We have 11 to 14 programs, depending on the year, and they’re all science-based,” she said.
Through the college’s certificate program in international agriculture, she’s had an engineering major study in Spain and a pre-veterinary medicine student study in Thailand. Numbers of exchange students in the college also are increasing from an average of two to 10 this upcoming spring.
“It’s a great trend,” Robinson said. “Students are trying to find a more immersive experience.”
Through UGA, even short-term experiences are going deeper than the global lecture hall. Quint Newcomer, director of UGA Costa Rica, led a group of graduate students and faculty from UGA and the Nanjing Forestry University in China as they worked with the mayor and community leaders in Santa Elena, Costa Rica, on a sustainable design for its downtown.
Santa Elena has experienced explosive growth over the past several years; the town’s bus stop and taxi stands were so busy that they were blocking off a major thoroughfare. Town leaders recognized the problem and asked UGA for help. Working together, they came up with a design for the relocated central bus terminal, taxi stand, a network of small parks and a pedestrian greenway.
“Within a week, they had produced a phenomenal design,” Newcomer said. “It was an amazing cross-cultural sharing experience.”