Students, faculty celebrate 90th study abroad program anniversary
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 20:02
As students arrived home from winter session abroad, faculty at the university celebrated the 90th anniversary of the inception of the study abroad program, the first in the nation.
Lisa Chieffo, associate director of the university’s Institute for Global Studies, said the university was the first in the nation to conduct study abroad programs. Professor Raymond Kirkbride led a class of eight male juniors on the first trip to France in 1923, she said. Studying abroad was unheard of in the ‘20s, but students today are exposed to travel at an earlier age and at lower costs than ever before, Chieffo said.
“When I talk to the freshmen and ask who has been out of the country, all these hands go up,” Chieffo said. “Well, that wasn’t the case 20 years ago and now it’s a commonality.”
The initial program was a success, according to Chieffo, until World War II. The program was halted for several years after the war ended.
Winter session study abroad opportunities started up again as “winterim” in the ‘70s and the number of destinations offered at the university grew in the ‘90s, Chieffo said.
Sophomore Kristen Mellin said her winter session trip to London with the criminal justice program changed her plans for the future.
“I could easily see myself moving to Europe,” Mellin said. “I did so many interesting things and I also got to travel to Paris and Berlin on our long weekends.”
From 1997 to 2007, the amount of students who have studied abroad has doubled, Chieffo said. She said the increase is due to the information revolution and the effect its had on the communication of information about the study abroad programs.
Junior Meghan Phillips, who spent winter session in Australia, said the university’s study abroad program was a critical factor when she finalized her college decision. When she applied to colleges her senior year of high school, she favored the university because of the study abroad program’s reputation, she said.
“That is the whole reason I picked to come here,” Phillips said. “Advertising for study abroad is such a big part of a school and I think so many kids who are going to college look for that.”
There are currently 50 study abroad options during winter session, Chieffo said. Consistent positive feedback for the trips keeps the programs alive each winter, she said.
Chieffo said she gathers student input from each trip through online evaluation forms. She uses the forms to determine how students have changed from their experiences depending on where they studied abroad, she said.
Students are not only gaining exposure to different cultures, but are learning how to live independently, how to interact well with others and how to adapt to different environments, Chieffo said. Studying abroad allows students to learn to think critically about their own culture, as well as the way they shape their community, she said.
“They can now think about why they’re choosing this government and why their educational system is the way it is,” Chieffo said.
To commemorate 90 years since the beginning of the program, the Institute for Global Studies is hosting traveler and writer Rick Steves, a best-selling European travel author, who will speak in Mitchell Hall on March 11 at 7:30 p.m., Chieffo said.
Senior Brynn Williams spent two semesters in Hong Kong last year and said she thinks the study abroad program would benefit from encouraging students from different study abroad experiences to educate others on the cultures of the countries they visited.
“In Hong Kong, we had ‘around the world night’ where each person from each country set up a booth and we had to cook something and make posters about our country,” Williams said. “Something like that would be really great for an anniversary so everyone could be represented.”