According to experts, some of the best education experiences a student can get while in college occur outside the classroom – far outside the classroom. Spending some time studying abroad can be a very valuable experience, they say.
In fact, a recent article in Language Magazine concluded that studying abroad, in this increasingly global economy, can help better prepare students to compete in the job market after graduation.
It is important for more students to utilize college and university study abroad programs, but minorities often are unable to or uninterested in pursuing such opportunities, the article noted. The article reported that legislation has been introduced in Congress to create a program in which colleges and universities would use competitive grants to establish programs to encourage more minority, low-income, and nontraditional students to study abroad.
Known as the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, the legislation “aims to increase the number of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million within 10 years,” the article stated. It noted that less than 2 percent of all enrolled post-secondary students in the U.S. study abroad. When students do study abroad, the article stated, 100 percent saw improvements in GPA.
Considering the emphasis being given to study abroad programs at the national level, The Falcon Forum decided to find out what kind of programs we have at Saint Augustine’s University. We sat down for a “question and answer” session with Dr. Kanton Reynolds, dean of the School of Business, Management and Technology and director of international programs; and Professor Pabón, assistant professor of international studies.
Dr. Kanton Reynolds
Q: Why should students study abroad?
A: We live in a global society, whatever career path you go in one has to be a global student, entrepreneur and so on. This is a global world; if you are not able to communicate with others you will not be productive in society.
Q: What does SAU have to offer when it comes to a study abroad program?
A: Last year (2015) there were three study abroad trips. Saint Augustine’s University has a relationship with North Carolina State University. Students from SAU were able to join in on that trip to China. Some of the other places that we have had the opportunity to visit include Paris, France to study the Harlem Renaissance period of cultural African American history. I had the opportunity of taking two students to Cuba last year. There was representation from a total of seven HBCU’s including SAU at this trip (Cuba). We were able to sponsor this trip on our own with support from the community. Duke University was one of the donors that came together to help sponsor the study abroad trip. SAU students have access to programs with all of the Cooperating Raleigh Colleges (CRC).
Q: Any current plans for future SAU study abroad trips?
A: Yes, this year during spring break there will be a Paris (France) trip. Dr. Ward is looking into taking a trip to Africa. I am researching currently two locations – Kenya and Uganda. It is very expensive; cost always has to be taken into consideration. This being a faculty lead trip, we want to do something that makes sense. Two possible activities I am looking into are the “globalH20” clean water imitative in Uganda and in Kenya the “First Lady Women Empowerment, Girl Child Development and Mentorship Initiative” (FILAWEMI). Panama is also another location of interest with the large sector of people of African descent, economic growth and, of course, the canal (Panama Canal). Along with those, Cuba is also on the list of studying Afro-Cuban culture, identity and community relations. This Cuba trip would be great for exploring some of the hardships such as the difficulty of getting a loan and being a black female owning a restaurant. Those are some of the ideas we have as of now.
Q: Does SAU currently have a student exchange agreement with other universities?
A: Yes, Saint Augustine’s University signed a student exchange agreement with The University of the Pacific. This is a partnership with the university from the country of Colombia. This agreement is a two-year agreement that allows students from Pacific to send two students to SAU and for SAU to send two students to Pacific. This covers full tuition and is for five weeks.
Q: How many SAU students would you estimate utilize the study abroad program?
A: About 1 percent of students here at the university utilize the program. I think that percentage encompasses the 12 students that have participated.
Q: Why do you think students do not take advantage of and participate in the program?
A: Sometimes students do not know about the program. Other times students do not think they can do these things. Fear of the unknown is another factor; going out the country is an awakening thing. Most students do not have passports. Language, food, and safety are the three big ones. Then you have cost and planning. Parents also play an instrumental role in the decision for their child to study abroad. The older generation did not grow up traveling and going overseas so that also plays a role in how they feel about the safety of their child. Most trips cost about $2,000 or more and students have to fundraise and apply for scholarships. Students have to have an interest in studying abroad. New ways to communicate the importance of studying abroad needs to be improved as to how students receive information about what is offered here at SAU.
Q: What would you say is the most beneficial skill that one can take from studying abroad?
A: When you go through the process of studying abroad it takes determination, global adaption, and overall being a dynamic individual. This opportunity is more beneficial than any internship so it helps you stand out. Being able to say that you took the opportunity to study abroad says that you are culturally competent, knowledgeable, and confident in taking risk.
Q: Are there any scholarships offered for students or an SAU donation foundation?
A: Yes, we are starting a foundation. It will be named after Thelma Johnson Roundtree. We definitely want for our students to engage in the program.
Q: Where can students go if they have more questions concerning study abroad here at SAU?
A: Come see me. Also ask Ms. Glover at the front office about setting up a meeting to talk with me. My office is located in the Cheshire Building #107. I have an open door policy, so students can come see me and ask questions about taking advantage of these opportunities that are out of the ordinary. Students can also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Javier Eduardo Pabón
Q: Why should students study abroad?
A: Having international experience opens the door to different ways of seeing the world. When you are limited to one culture and space you miss out on all of the wealth and epistemologies (the theory and validity of knowledge) one has within.
Q: As a foreign language instructor how do you think this opportunity could help students in learning languages?
A: Nothing is more effective than immersion when it comes to learning a foreign language.
Q: Can you recall a time when you personally studied abroad?
A: As you know, I am from Ecuador, however I completed my education studying abroad all five years. For my undergrad education, I studied in Columbia and, for my graduate education, I studied at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Q: What advice would you give students choosing where to study abroad and what would you recommend students know before studying abroad?
A: My advice would be that you must be one with the new experience to realize what you are getting out of it. Think from and within the environment from an international perspective.