Hundreds of Baylor Students Study Abroad This Summer
by Meghan Merchant, student newswriter
Recognizing the importance of a global education in today's world, Baylor has made significant progress in strengthening the university's efforts in international education. Keeping in line with Imperative XI of Baylor 2012, the university's 10-year vision, Baylor will send 400 students overseas this summer in study abroad programs to 20 countries.
As part of Baylor 2012 and university's mission to "educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service," Baylor's administration has a goal: to eventually see 30 percent of the undergraduate student body participate in study abroad programs.
"We're on track" to meeting that goal by 2012, said Dr. Bill Mitchell, director and Jo Murphy chair of the Center for International Education. Of the graduates in 2005, 19 percent had some kind of international education experience during their time at Baylor.
"We're in a global environment," Mitchell said, explaining the importance of an international experience in a college student's education. "Everything we do in any occupation is connected globally. Especially with the Internet, borders aren't as significant as they were in the past."
Baylor has increased the number of international programs from 50 in fiscal year 2002 to 73 in the current fiscal year, all the while improving the quality of the programs offered to students. These new programs have created more opportunities not only for students but for faculty as well. This summer, 28 Baylor professors will serve as program directors and lead various study-abroad group trips overseas. Students studying abroad through the Center for International Education may take classes overseas from Baylor professors as part of a university-organized group study abroad program or they may study individually at foreign universities through an exchange or affiliate program.
The level of participation in study abroad programs also has risen from 633 students to 855 while the number of international students on campus has remained steady, according to a report from Mitchell.
Studying abroad is "an opportunity to not just travel and see the world, but to live in and experience a new place," said Cathleen Catlin, exchange program and study abroad adviser. "Students who study abroad say it's the highlight not just of their academic career, but of their personal experiences in college as well."
Linda Klatt, director of International Student and Scholar Services, agreed, saying the benefits of an international education "are too many to list."
As the world becomes more globalized, Catlin said the study abroad experience helps build a student's résumé but more importantly develops better educated and more aware citizens.
Most frequently, staff and students cite a broadened world perspective as the greatest benefit from studying abroad - an advantage that can't be picked up in a classroom but supplements students' Baylor education in great ways.
"It really gets you out of your comfort zone ... It gives you a better perspective of how the U.S. relates with the rest of the world as well," said Benjamin Evans, a Fort Worth senior and operations management and entrepreneurship major, who participated in Baylor in Maastricht during the first summer term.
Evans chose Baylor's program in the Netherlands because he could "take entrepreneurship classes in countries I may work with later in my career." He hopes his experience overseas will make him "more experienced than a typical graduate."
Due to the popularity of Baylor in Maastricht, which is both a semester or summer program, staff in the International Student and Scholar Services department are developing a similarly structured program in London.
"New programs are created in response to a need or interest of a faculty member or student," Klatt said.
Students learn about their study abroad options through study abroad fairs, information sessions and classes. The center also sponsors a study abroad photo contest each year.
The trend to study abroad isn't limited to Baylor. In November, the United States Senate passed a resolution declaring 2006 "The Year of Study Abroad," recognizing the importance of the study abroad experience in today's global world. The senate set the goal of 1 million U.S. students studying abroad by 2015.
According to information from the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, about 191,321 college students, constituting slightly more than 1 percent of total enrolled undergraduates, studied abroad in 2004-05, though 50 percent of college-bound high school students express an interest in studying overseas.
Countries being visited by Baylor students this summer include: Argentina, Austria, Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominica, England, France, Germany, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Scotland and Spain.