As applications for study abroad programs open for the 2023 season, many students who have studied abroad in the past are reflecting on their experiences and encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.
The university has connections to hundreds of study abroad opportunities for students to choose from. The UA Study Abroad website explains the four different program types available, consisting of faculty-led, exchange and external programs, as well as the option to study at the UA Rome Center.
Faculty-led programs are short term academic learning experiences with fellow UA students, typically offering 3-6 credit hours, said Brian Poepsel, assistant director of UA Study Abroad. These programs are highly sought-after by UA students and often take place in the university’s Rome Center, housed in the 18th century wing of the Palazzo Taverna.
Jackson Plumlee, a senior majoring in marketing, participated in the 2022 summer program Marketing in Rome, during which he took consumer behavior and global marketing courses.
“We were in the classroom, but we also got to go out and see how people marketed in Italy firsthand,” Plumlee said.
The Rome Center allows for students to form relationships with UA peers, learn how to navigate across various parts of Europe and gain global insights to one's major, Plumlee said.
Veronica Mobley, a UA alumna and communications professor, is one such faculty member who students will have the opportunity to interact with this summer while studying abroad.
“Getting abroad and having the whole experience there is a beautiful way to challenge yourself to grow as an individual,” Mobley said. “Ninety-nine percent of students come back, and it's a life-altering experience for them.”
Mobley previously worked with the UA study abroad office as the assistant director and will serve as an instructor at the UA Rome Center this summer. She will teach courses in intercultural communication and international communication and globalization.
For students who are worried about a study abroad program derailing their plans of graduating on time, both Poepsel and Mobley are confident that with the proper amount of planning and advising, studying abroad can not only keep students on track to graduate, but also help them fulfill the needs of their majors, they said.
“If you study abroad in the summer you are not interrupting your eight semesters of studying on campus,” Poepsel said. “If you study abroad for a semester, it's a different situation for everyone…but a lot of students can earn credit toward their major to stay on track with their degree by studying abroad. I think it’s a myth that it’s going to automatically put you behind.”
The university offers other faculty-led programs outside of Italy as well. Chloe Breth, a junior majoring in special education, studied in Madrid at Nebrija University to complete her Spanish minor. Breth was encouraged by the cultural differences of the people of Spain compared to the United States, she said.
“I feel like everyone in Spain was very selfless compared to people in America,” Breth said. “They value community really well and you kind of base your own schedule around other people instead of on yourself.”
Laurence Hare, associate professor of history and director of the International & Global Studies Program, recently returned from a winter intersession faculty-led program in Barcelona, Spain, called Changemakers. It trains students to develop new approaches to global issues by connecting local Arkansas organizations facing challenges with similar communities abroad, Hare said.
There will be another opportunity for students to participate in the Changemakers program in May 2024, Hare said. It is an opportunity to see how different cultures address problems and demonstrate how connected Arkansas is to global issues.
As far as the application process goes, Poepsel encourages students to begin looking at potential programs two semesters in advance, and apply no later than one semester before hoping to travel abroad. He said he also tells students to keep an open mind and not be afraid to mess up, assuring them that they will not be left to fend for themselves at any point while undertaking their study abroad experience.
“We are working with students from the time they stumble in the door and say ‘I think I want to study abroad,’ to the point where they are applying for their visa and booking their plane tickets,” Poepsel said. “We support them on the back end, getting transfer credits and hopefully doing some reflective things to engage their experience, their resume and their professional development.”
Resources for those planning to study abroad are available on the UA Study Abroad website. In-person resources provided at the office include informational sessions in the Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, peer advising on how to navigate the HogsAbroad website and major-specific advising with professional advising staff from each college.
“University is a time to really push yourself to be uncomfortable because that's where you learn and that's where you grow,” Mobley said. “It's kind of like the growing pains you have when you're younger, it’s a little bit uncomfortable but amazing things happen on the other side of that fear.”
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