Dr. Joy James, left, talks with a student about a study abroad program in Russia offered during an international fair held at Appalachian State University. James is an assistant professor in Appalachian’s Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science housed in the College of Health Sciences. Appalachian was recently ranked third in the nation among master’s-degree granting institutions for the number of students who studied abroad on short-term faculty-led programs of eight weeks or less by the Institute of International Education.
Appalachian ranks third in the nation among master’s-degree granting institutions for the number of students who studied abroad on short-term faculty-led programs of eight weeks or less. The university ranks fourth nationally among the master’s-degree granting institutions for the total number of students who participated in a study abroad program, short-term as well as semester and year-long programs.
That’s according to the 2011 Open Doors report recently released by the Institute of International Education. The report is based on data submitted by colleges and universities for the 2009-10 academic year. Appalachian had 828 students participate in either a short-term, semester or year-long study abroad program that year. The numbers for 2010-11 are even higher at 1,006 students.
The numbers are expected to continue to increase thanks to an increased awareness among students of education abroad opportunities offered by Appalachian.
“Numbers tell but one part of the story, however,” said Ken Lewandoski, executive director and director of international student exchange and study abroad in the Office of International Education and Development (OIED). “What distinguishes Appalachian’s international education programs is the geographic and academic breadth of offerings and, especially, the fact that a large majority of study abroad students take part in opportunities directly sponsored by the university—designed by its faculty or through one of its partner institutions abroad.”
Five years ago, the College of Arts and Sciences, Walker College of Business and the College of Find and Applied Arts generated the majority of overseas programs. “We now have programs offered by each and every college at Appalachian,” said Meg Marck-Kennedy, director of OIED’s Appalachian Overseas Education Programs.
Jeanne d’Arc Gomis helps direct OIED’s semester and yearlong study abroad programs offered at partner universities, assists incoming exchange students, and is one of several staff members who counsels students on study abroad opportunities. “With growth in our department, we are better able to accommodate students who seek information about our study abroad programs,” she said. OIED’s outreach to students includes presentations at freshman, transfer student and parent orientations, and at open houses held by the Office of Admissions, and at evening meetings of student clubs and organizations, as well as weekly study abroad information sessions. “We are seeing the fruit of our efforts,” she said.
Encouraging freshmen and sophomores to study abroad is a focus of the Office of International Education and Development in partnership with University College and the Office of General Education. “We have found that students who participate in study abroad early in their academic career tend to participate in other study abroad programs,” Marck-Kennedy. “And if you get them early, they often realize the importance of having foreign language skills.”
Overseas programs that cross academic disciplines are becoming popular with Appalachian students. A War in Europe program integrates Appalachian’s general education curriculum for freshmen and sophomores through the academic areas of history and sociology, for example. Other interdisciplinary programs have paired geography and biology, and art, music and global studies.
“If you study abroad, you will have an international experience, learn about a different culture, be challenged and you are going to know more about yourself,” Gomis said. “You can read books and study history, but that doesn’t stay with you as much as experiencing a foreign country yourself.”
While Europe remains a popular destination, Central and South America and South Africa are areas of growing interest to students, including programs in Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Senegal, Malawi and Zambia.
It’s all part of the OEID’s strategic initiatives to broaden the university’s offerings. “In the past when we talked about Asia, we talked only about China,” Marck-Kennedy said. “Now we have (programs in) Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and India.”
“In all of these ways, international education at Appalachian complements and supplements students’ academic and personal growth. It is both central to and an enhancement of their college experience,” said Lewandoski.