For college students, there are multiple benefits to studying abroad, from the information they gain from experiencing another culture, to greater self-confidence, to developing employer-friendly soft skills such as adaptability and enhanced global awareness.
But what about students for whom – whether because of family obligations, the need to work during the semester or concerns about how spending several months away from campus could impact their path to graduation – long-term study abroad is not an option?
To provide those students with the opportunity to have an international learning experience, Sacramento State is reviving and expanding so-called “faculty-led” short-term travel programs that allow students to visit another country during academic breaks and earn credit at the same time.
“President (Robert S.) Nelsen and senior administrators recognize that study abroad is a high-impact practice, that it’s an educational opportunity that has tremendous benefits for students,” said Paul Hofmann, associate vice president for International Affairs. “What we want to do is make sure as many Sacramento State students as possible have the opportunity to go abroad.”
The first program, led by history Professor Jeffrey Dym, was a visit to Matsuyama, Japan, from Jan. 6-19. Visits to France and Ghana will take place during the summer break. The College of Continuing Education will administer the programs.
“Although semester or year-long study abroad is more well-known, the vast majority of U.S. students travel on short-term programs,” Hofmann said.
Sacramento State has had a long history with such programs, though they were discontinued a few years ago. Hofmann said he hopes that, by reviving and eventually expanding them – the university’s goal is, in three years, to have 25 annually – more students can have the opportunity to study in another country.
Approximately 40 students are expected to study abroad on this year’s three short-term faculty-led programs. When compared with the 134 students who participated in all study-abroad programs last year, the short-term programs present a significant opportunity to expand the overall number of students traveling to other countries. Hofmann’s goal is, within five years, to have more than 500 Sacramento State students participating in study abroad in some form or another.
As these shorter programs expand, organizers want to ensure that they are accessible to all students. The programs can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 before travel expenses, but travel grants are available to students who need them, and in some cases, a students’ financial aid can be applied.
“We’re making every effort to make these programs as affordable as possible for students, because that’s a key part of making sure these programs are available to all students,” Hofmann said.
The visit to Japan has existed informally for five years but now is under faculty-led programs offered through the College of Continuing Education, allowing students to obtain course credit for the trip. In addition to reading assignments and a post-trip final paper, the 12 traveling students will visit cultural sites, experience traditions such as Kabuki theater and the Japanese tea ceremony, and spend a few days staying with host families.
Dym hopes students will gain a greater appreciation not just for Japanese history and culture, but also for the world that they live in.
“Too many Americans have a view of us as the center off the universe. It’s good to go and see how other cultures do things, whether it’s lining up at McDonalds, very politely, or lining up for the train, or how milk tastes different,” Dym said.
He said it is possible for participants to “come away with the idea that the American way isn’t the only way to do things. It’s not good or bad. Just different.”
For more information about study abroad at Sacramento State, visit the International Programs and Global Engagement website. – Jonathan Morales