SLRP II to improve study abroad at Guilford

Some want to study animals in their native habitats. Some want to practice a foreign language. Some just want to get out of Greensboro for a semester.

Whatever their motivations, Guilford students love taking advantage of the study abroad options available through the school. Most students who have studied abroad praise the experience as both intellectually and culturally stimulating.

“Being able to live in community with another group of people who were not from America helped me to grow as a person,” said senior Kieran Brackbill, who studied abroad in London, in an online interview. “It forced me to get outside of my American customs a bit and learn new ways of seeing the world.”

For others, the experience of studying abroad was valuable but could have been improved.

“My experience studying with nine Guilford students and no native Germans seriously limited my ability to integrate into German society,” said senior Ryan Sanders, who went to Munich with a Guilford-led program. “I think it would be great if we had a program in Germany through a university so we could experience a German education and form friendships with Germans our age.”

Creating more international awareness in students is a key feature of the second Strategic Long-Range Plan (SLRP II), according to former Director of Study Abroad Jim Hood. This includes expanding Guilford’s Study Abroad program options as well as the number of international students on campus. Another improvement which Daniel Diaz, project assistant for Study Abroad, hopes to see is an increase in the number of programs Guilford offers.

“I would like to see the study abroad office grow in terms of staff and in terms of program options … especially in South and Central America, Africa, and South Asia,” Diaz said. “These are under-represented locations generally in study abroad, and I’d like to see our office be part of the group of study abroad offices reaching out to those destinations and to those cultures and people.”

According to Hood, offering a short term in January or May could increase the number and variety of programs available at Guilford.

“Some of the short-term options will be ‘study away’ options,” Hood said. “These may be study trips run by faculty that don’t involve traveling to another country, because there are plenty of interesting things to study here in the U.S.”

The short term, set to roll out in 2013, could be a solution to many of the problems students face in planning a trip abroad. One of these problems is that for some students, spending an entire semester away from Guilford is impractical.

Student-athletes are obligated to be at Guilford during the season their sport is played, and CCE students are often unable to study abroad because of work commitments. The short term is easier to schedule around and may make it possible for more students to go abroad.

“I hope … with a January term that we will begin to organize enough short trips that the adult population will start to go (abroad) as well,” said Jack Zerbe, director of Study Abroad.

It can also be challenging to fulfill graduation requirements at a different campus. Students should ensure that the classes they take while abroad apply to their major, minor, or general education requirements, so they can have a great trip and still graduate on time.

“Because I started planning during my first year, I was able to arrange my schedule around studying abroad,” said senior Nicole Guilfoyle, who studied abroad in Hirakata, Japan. “But, that might not happen in other programs or for other majors, like the sciences.”

“In my experience, the best way to make sure you graduate in four years is to take courses for your major while you’re at Guilford and then fulfill your general education requirements while abroad,” Sanders said. “In Munich, I could fulfill requirements for my German and international studies majors, but people might have problems with other majors.”

Some students feel that they cannot study abroad due to the cost. The short-term option will cost less than a full semester, and the Study Abroad office is exploring other options, such as scholarships, to lower the cost.

“Guilford is on the right track by trying to make study abroad more affordable,” said senior Rebecca Sutton, who studied abroad in Montpellier, France. “My financial aid didn’t apply to my semester in France, so the cost was more than twice as much as going on a Guilford-led program.”

There is a distinction between Guilford-led programs, which are led by Guilford faculty and cost about the same as a semester at Guilford; Guilford-affiliated programs, which are hosted through other colleges or universities and may incur surcharges; and outside programs, which are not associated with Guilford at all and thus cost more.

Currently, Guilford students can study at over 70 locations around the world through 22 different programs, including trips led by faculty members to London, Munich, Sienna, and other locations. As many as 100 students have gone abroad in previous years. Unfortunately, the numbers were down to 88 last year, in part due to a canceled trip to Mexico. Nevertheless, SLRP II and the improvements to the Study Abroad program will be beneficial for students — at home and abroad.