by Amy Vaerewyck | University Communications
It’s pretty obvious: Studying abroad makes students more successful.
- According to a study from the University of Minnesota, 63 percent of college students who study abroad go on to graduate or professional schools.
- Data from a recent education study indicate that minority students who study abroad are 18 percent more likely to graduate from college than their peers who do not.
Our Office of Global Education (OGE) works to make study abroad a viable option for all students—traditional, nontraditional, first-generation, minority, professional, low-income and everyone in between—on both our urban Denver Campus and our health sciences-focused Anschutz Medical Campus.
“We’re very intentional about diversity and inclusion,” said Jessica Greenbaum, Asia study abroad coordinator, “and we all work really hard to help students get where they need to be.”
Many CU Denver│Anschutz students juggle jobs and families, face financial challenges or come from disadvantaged backgrounds in which higher education and global study were never discussed—and the OGE staff knows this.
“We have to understand the concerns, motivations and barriers for our own student body, as we design programs, so that the programs resonate with the students’ needs and interests,” said John Sunnygard, director of OGE. “Every single student at our university should have the benefit of an international learning experience.”
Read on for some study abroad success stories from our OGE.
Repeat Offender in World Travel
When Lateefah Young walked into the dance studio, all eyes were on her—and she knew why. She was a young African-American at a hip hop dance audition in Seoul, South Korea.
Young, an international studies major
, realized that the other dancers, who were all Korean, probably thought she’d know all the moves, because of hip hop’s role in African-American culture. She knew enough moves to make the dance team, but her challenges didn’t end there.
These differing values created a barrier between the Koreans and the non-Koreans, Young said, and most of the non-Koreans ended up quitting the team. Young stuck it out, but after months of practicing and performing together, she still wasn’t sure whether her teammates liked her or not.
Then, shortly before returning to Denver at the end of her semester abroad, she told them goodbye—and they all cried.
“My teammates respected me, and I was so proud,” she said. “I really felt like I impacted my team.”
Since returning from Seoul, Young has spent another semester abroad in Beijing
and plans to spend a second semester there in fall 2013.
“I’m a repeat offender,” she said with a laugh.
She works as an OGE peer advisor, and after she graduates in spring 2014, she wants to move permanently to Korea to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
Getting Ahead, Going Abroad
When Daniel Smafield dropped out of high school at 17, he didn’t think college was in his future, let alone a year abroad in Buenos Aires
. But Smafield found his way to CU Denver, and CU Denver helped him find his way to Argentina.
“Growing up, I had no role models to tell me to go to college,” said the first-generation college student who came from a disadvantaged background. “If I can study abroad, anyone can study abroad.”
Smafield supported himself, paying his own tuition, rent and all living costs—so scholarships were a must-have. He turned to the OGE for resources and guidance on applying for scholarships, and he got what he needed to go abroad during the 2010-2011 academic year.
“There’s a lot of support [from the OGE] for students getting scholarships,” he said.
Now, as an OGE peer advisor, Smafield provides the same guidance to other students seeking study abroad scholarships. He graduated, summa cum laude, in December 2012, receiving the Fall 2012 “Outstanding Undergraduate” award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
. He plans to begin graduate school next year.
Making study abroad possible
Each year, approximately 440 CU Denver|Anschutz students, medical residents and fellows go abroad for study, research and clinical practice. Here are a few things that help them do that:
- Varied trip duration options—including traditional semester- or year-long programs, as well as short-term programs that last for several weeks.
- Personalized support and advice from both global education professionals and seasoned peer advisors.
- Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships—last year, students were awarded $179,000 in scholarships to study abroad.
First Generation to Study Abroad
In July 2011, Communication major Michael Mendoza was participating in a fellowship in Washington, D.C., and two students in his fellowship cohort were Indian. He found them intriguing, so he got online and started researching India.
It took little more than a YouTube search for “Bollywood” for Mendoza to become fascinated with this rich culture and he set his mind on studying abroad there. Mendoza and his three older siblings are the first generation in their family to go to college, and Mendoza is the first person in his family to study abroad.
“I wanted to challenge myself, to go outside my comfort zone,” said Mendoza, who had never been out of the country before. With support from the OGE and TRiO Student Support Services
, he landed three scholarships that, together, covered all of his expenses to study in Hyderabad, India, in spring 2012.
“I didn’t pay a dime,” Mendoza said. “Finances are a big piece [of studying abroad], but you can’t let that turn you off. It will work itself out, and once you step on that plane, all the hard work will pay off.”
As a peer advisor, he gets to relive his semester abroad and help others make it happen, too. Mendoza plans to spend another semester studying abroad, this time in Beijing, before graduating in fall 2014.
Two-for-one on International Education
In spite of the fact that Kelly Marlett is an international studies major and that most of his closest friends were born in other countries, he had never traveled outside of the U.S. before. Maybe that’s why when he studied abroad in fall 2012, he doubled his experience by learning in two countries.
Marlett spent a full semester in Morocco and completed a winter term program in Spain before heading back to Denver.
“I wanted the opportunity to be more independent and innovative in my education and professional goals,” said Marlett, who was born in Colorado and grew up in Ohio. “In Morocco I was studying Arabic and migration studies, including an independent research project on sport migration, and in Spain I took a two-week communications course.”
He wants to complete his minor in French in a francophone country in Africa or in southern France. After he graduates from CU Denver, he hopes to go to film school and produce international documentaries.