Thursday, September 1, 2011

An Interview with UK's Education Abroad Department

College is full of opportunities…opportunities to learn, meet new people, explore viewpoints different from your own and really find your place in the world. This probably isn’t news to you. Living in Lexington exposes University of Kentucky students to a number of cultural traditions, activities and resources that might not be available at other colleges. There are limitations, however, to what UK and Lexington can offer to a student. There’s a great big world out there with prospects way beyond what any one city, state or country can provide. That’s where UK’s Education Abroad (EA) department comes in. EA provides resources and advising for students to take a step out of Lexington during their college career and find out what other cultures have to offer. The opportunities are almost boundless — traveling abroad can be one of the most exciting, memorable and beneficial experiences you may have as a college student. Unfortunately, many students are uninformed or apprehensive about exploring their possibilities to study outside of Lexington. Summer Eglinski, one of EA’s advisors, was kind enough to answer some questions about the Education Abroad department and the resources available to students who may or may not have considered studying abroad.

Could you briefly describe the work that Education Abroad does? What is the typical process for a student that is interested in participating in your programs?
Education Abroad at UK seeks to provide academically-sound, international experiences for all UK students regardless of major, classification (freshmen, sophomore, graduate, etc.), demographic, or financial need. Our role is to help students identify high quality programs that meet their needs academically, personally and financially, to appropriately prepare students for their experience abroad, to ensure the health and safety of students while abroad, and to facilitate the process of successfully re-entering academic life back at UK. For students interested in planning an education abroad experience, the best way to get started is by attending a First Steps Session during the fall or spring semester. These information sessions are held every Monday - Thursday afternoon and provide an overview of the Education Abroad at UK process. We also have professional EA advisors, returned students who serve as Education Abroad peer ambassadors, a searchable website and a resource center to help students begin the process of studying abroad.
About how many UK students utilize education abroad each year? What are the most popular destinations abroad?
We are currently compiling our data from 2010-11, but from a preliminary count it looks like approximately 640 students participated in an EA experience in '10-11. This is a slight increase from last year, which is great. However, our goal is to have significantly more students study abroad, research abroad, and intern abroad in the coming years. In terms of popular destinations, we align with national trends in that Europe is the most popular. However, destinations in Asia are one of fastest growing in terms of popularity.
What do you see as the most noticeable outcomes for students studying abroad?
Among students who really maximize their experience abroad and take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them, it’s a changed mindset, a reframing of their perspective. Students return with a deeper awareness and understanding of not only the host culture but their own culture as Americans, Kentuckians, UK students, etc.
What might be some study abroad destinations that are less traveled or underrated? In other words, are there some places that students often don't think they could go to study but have gotten good feedback from the students that have?
We encourage students to look at the world in its entirety and not just think of study abroad in terms of what friends and family might have experienced. Although western Europe has a lot of great opportunities and can truly be the best destination for some students depending on their academic interests, there are a lot of really great programs in Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Students have had positive experiences on programs in Chile, India, Russia, you name it! When considering their options, students should ask themselves if they want to go where most American students go for study abroad or do they want to set themselves apart and explore a more “unique” part of the world?
Additionally, we like to encourage students to focus on the “what” in education abroad before the “where.” What program makes the most sense to the academic and professional goals of each student. When you approach the opportunities this way, the where might surprise you.
Anything else you would like to add about EA? Is there any advice you would give to students considering EA?
My advice – find a way to make it happen! College is the perfect time in your life to explore the world outside Lexington/Kentucky/the US. Knowing that our office is here to support you and that your financial aid can be applied to education abroad programs (Yes, it can!), what’s not to love? When I tell others what I do for a living I never hear people say they regret studying abroad for a semester, summer or year. More often than not, people (aka adults) say they regret not taking advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. Don’t let this be your regret too.
There are literally hundreds of approved education abroad programs at UK that range in program type, length, degree of immersion, academic semester/term, and cost. We have programs for studying, conducting research, and interning abroad. There really is a program out there that’s right for everyone.
More information on studying abroad at UK can be found at EA’s website,

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