[Fresh] Thinking about international studies

john immerwahr (john.immerwahr@villanova.edu)
Fri, 05 Jan 2007 13:31:10 -0500

Interview with Mr. Lance Kenney, Director of the Office of International
Studies, and, of course, best wishes from Fresh@News to all Villanova
parents, students, and family members for a great New Year.

Fresh@News: More and more students seem to study abroad at some point.
What are some of the benefits of studying abroad? Is this something
parents and students should discuss over the semester break?
Mr. Kenney: It isn’t too soon for parents and students to start talking
about international study. We have over 800 students studying abroad
this academic year. The immediate benefits of international education
can be academic, such as studying a new field or enhancing your learning
in a new way. We can send students all over the world to perfect their
abilities in a language they’ve already studied or to learn a new one
and, naturally, the best way to learn a language is to go to a country
where it is spoken. (Of course, we also have many English Language
programs.) In the long term, study abroad makes students more empathetic
to other cultures, more confident, and more aware of world events. They
also become more aware of career options and career goals, more willing
to take challenges and, for these reasons, more attractive to employers.

Fresh@News: Which of these programs should current freshmen be thinking
about?
Mr. Kenney: There are a few different possibilities. Many freshmen go on
one of our summer programs, so let’s start there. Villanova has sixteen
summer programs. These programs include intensive language and
literature programs (Spanish, French, Arabic, Italian, German) and also
area studies programs (Latin America, Ireland, Russia.) We also offer
international business programs which are based in Chile, China,
England, Italy, Germany, Poland, or Spain. Other programs focus on a
specific discipline (rhetoric and performance in Greece, art history in
Italy.) Each of the programs has a Villanova University faculty member
as an on-site coordinator and provides excellent opportunities for
students who wouldn’t normally study overseas or cannot fit it into
their schedules. Information on the programs is available from our
website
(http://www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu/summer/summer.htm) or
from our annual brochure which is distributed on campus. Students who
are interested in a summer program for this coming summer should contact
our office as soon as they return for the spring semester.

Fresh@News: What about the programs for fall and spring? When should
first year students start thinking about them?
Mr. Kenney: We’ve all heard about the idea of a “junior year abroad” and
it is still true that a lot of students go overseas in their junior
year. However, more and more students are finding this difficult,
usually because of degree requirements. Both the School of Business and
the College of Nursing have special programs allowing sophomores to
study overseas, and first semester seniors can now study abroad as well.
Overseas study is sometimes more complicated for Engineering students,
given the strictness of their curriculum, but with enough advanced
planning and preparation it is possible for them to study overseas for a
semester as well. Business and Engineering students who are considering
going overseas for a semester in their sophomore year should come into
our office right away. Nursing students should consult with the Office
of the Dean of Nursing. Students who are thinking about going overseas
during their junior year can wait until sophomore year to start the
process. Generally, students should begin to plan their overseas study
by going to the Office of International Studies six to nine months prior
to departure to the overseas university or program. However, the
programs that Villanova utilizes are on rolling admissions, meaning that
in some cases programs are filled. In general, students should have
applications finished before the mid-semester break prior to the
semester they wish to be overseas (by fall break if they want to go in
the spring or by spring break if they want to go in the fall). As with
most things, completion of applications should be done “sooner” rather
than “later.”

Fresh@News: What kind of programs does Villanova offer during the
academic year?
Mr. Kenney: Villanova University basically has three types of programs.
“Traditional” programs allow students to enroll in overseas universities
to take classes with students from that country. Villanova is affiliated
with many programs of this type, and this year alone VU students are at
over 50 universities in 25 nations. “Nontraditional” programs, though,
allow students not only to take classes overseas but also to do
something outside of the classroom. For instance, many students are
doing international internships, volunteer work, service-learning, or
field research. We’ve had students working at businesses in Sydney,
researching animals in the Turks and Caicos, studying the rain forests
in Costa Rica, and interviewing politicians in Dublin, just to name a
few. As more and more US students study overseas, these ‘nontraditional’
programs become more popular.

Finally, Villanova University has its own study abroad programs. There
is the Villanova University Study Center at the National University of
Ireland, Galway. Villanova students get to live and study with Irish
students while participating in a program designed just for them.
Villanova’s Resident Director organizes study tours, oversees
orientation and registration, and directs them in special research
projects. Given the long history of connections between Galway and
Villanova, this program is especially popular. A similar program is
being initiated this year in Urbino, Italy where Villanova has had a
summer program for many years. As with Galway, a Resident Director
overseas the program, and students have the chance to take classes in
both English and Italian with Italian students. Finally, Villanova has a
directed research program at the University of Melbourne through the
Australian Center which allows greater immersion, and a service-learning
program in London. The programs reflect a commitment to the university’s
belief in the value of studying abroad, while allowing us to maintain
greater quality control.

Fresh@News: What is the actual application process?
Mr. Kenney: There is a three step process for students. First, students
should complete the initial application form in the Office of
International Studies and attend the informational counseling session in
Middleton Hall. The session will review the necessary academic
components and will teach students how to research programs. After
researching the options, students can schedule an individual appointment
with the Office of International Studies. The individual meetings
comprise the second step. A staff member will discuss with the student
in greater detail the program options and that student’s individual
needs. Students may also need to meet with the department chair,
academic adviser, or language instructor to review the academic audit or
curriculum sheet. Ultimately, in conjunction with the Office of
International Studies, students will complete the Prior Approval Form,
choosing the courses to be taken overseas and determining how credit
will be awarded. The last step is to return the VU Prior Approval form
(with signatures from the chair and dean) to the Office of International
Studies. At that time, the staff member from International Studies will
review the overseas application and answer any remaining questions.

Fresh@News: How much does it cost to study abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Students will pay Villanova University tuition for the
semester they are overseas. All other costs (housing, orientation, etc.)
will be paid by students on their own, either to the sending institution
or the university where they are studying. All financial aid, grants,
and scholarships that students receive when they are on campus are still
credited against their Villanova tuition when they are overseas.
Information on the international studies tuition policy and the reasons
for it is available from the Office of International Studies, or from
the Parents’ Website at
http://www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu/parents/parents.htm.

In addition, a variety of scholarships are available for students
studying overseas. Some of these scholarships are offered by Villanova
University for Honors students or students studying in ‘nontraditional’
areas; alternatively, scholarships are available from some US sending
institutions or other endowments. This information also is available at
the Office’s website,
http://www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu/scholarship.htm.

Fresh@News: What kind of support does the University provide to students
who are abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Since most students study overseas through select sending
institutions, the on-site support and counseling is provided by those
institutions. The most important support that the Office of
International Studies provides is regular communication, particularly
with regard to course selection and approval. We also provide advice on
health and safety, housing, passports, and 'culture shock.' The students
receive a monthly newsletter from this office, and communicate with us
anytime through their Villanova email account. In short, through this
communication we become expert international trouble-shooters.

Fresh@News: Given the current situation in the US, are there any
concerns about the safety of our students when they go abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Both the Office of International Studies and the field of
international education as a whole have been very conscious of safety
issues given recent events. We have no reason to believe that students
are in greater danger because they are overseas. The University is very
select about which programs it approves, and these few programs must
have demonstrated a commitment to health and safety issues. Students
aren’t allowed to participate in ‘island’ programs which would make them
stand out; and in non-English speaking countries, all students must
study the host country language. In other words, our requirements for
student immersion reflect serious safety concerns.

Most importantly, though, students are fully briefed on health and
safety issues both in individual meetings and at the mandatory
pre-departure orientation. The Office of International Studies stays in
regular contact with the State Department, the Overseas Security
Advisory Council, the sending institutions, and professionals in the
host countries. Both as a university and a representative of
international education, we are united with them in believing that
safety issues should NOT inhibit students from studying overseas at this
time.

Fresh@News: How are the students when they return?
Mr. Kenney: Self-confident, independent, energized. Most are anxious to
go back, and ready to tell friends and family how much they have changed
for the better. Some have difficulties readjusting to the United States,
but we have the opportunity to talk to them about these issues at our
‘welcome back’ orientation.

Fresh@News: Do you have any advice for parents?
Mr. Kenney: Parents are the most powerful advocates for international
education. The first piece of advice I would have for parents is to
encourage your student to study abroad. We’ve already mentioned some of
the benefits of studying overseas. The benefits to the
student—professionally, academically, personally—are staggering.

Second, encourage your student to be in contact with the Office of
International Studies and Overseas Programs. ‘Word of mouth’ and ‘a
friend told me…’ are often detrimental when beginning the process of
finding an overseas program. This Office should be the starting point,
with an initial counseling session that will answer major questions
(credits, courses, costs) and review the major sources for researching
program options.

Finally, encourage students to think of their study abroad opportunities
within the parameters of their needs. Some of the questions they should
ask are: “What program will help me to develop a skill relevant to my
major/minor/career plans/interests? In which program will I learn the
most and become more fully immersed in another culture? Which programs
allow me learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom?”
Remember, the study abroad experience is an extension of, not a break
from, your student’s Villanova education. An excellent resource for
these subjects and others is Study Abroad: A Parent’s Guide, written by
William W. Hoffa and published by NAFSA—Association of International
Educators (available on request from the Office of International
Studies). Also look at the new parent-specific pages on our website,
http://www.
internationalstudies.villanova.edu/parents/parents.htm

For these issues and the host of others that will arise before, during,
and after the study abroad experience, communication is the key. It is
imperative that the student stays in contact with the Office of
International Studies. This advice is the most important for parents.
Keeping the OIS ‘in the loop’ helps us to help you.

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