Upon their return to the United States, CU-Boulder students often say that their study abroad experiences changed their lives. That’s certainly the case for Liza Hensleigh, (BA 05), who was so enthused by her study of peace and conflict issues in Nicaragua, Uganda and Rwanda that she joined the staff of Study Abroad Programs to advise students as they weave foreign study into their college curriculum.
“Not only is it important that students study abroad, but it’s crucial that they do so,” said Hensleigh, who majored in international affairs and women and gender studies. “I know I was changed for the better.”
As one component of a transformation goal of Flagship 2030, Study Abroad Programs in the Office of International Education (OIE) focuses on outbound students. Within OIE, International Student and Scholar Services focuses on inbound students, and the OIE Global Education Initiative charge examines new opportunities for continuing to grow CU-Boulder’s reputation as a global crossroads.
Study Abroad Programs was an early proponent of adding education abroad opportunities to the curriculum when it was officially launched in 1963. Now, CU-Boulder is consistently ranked among the top 10 large public institutions sending students abroad for a semester in the annual Open Doors report issued by the Institute of International Education. CU-Boulder was also in the vanguard among universities in establishing a faculty committee to review and approve the programs to maintain academic quality.
Mary Dando, director of Study Abroad Programs, said studying abroad prepares students to live and work in an increasingly multicultural world. “What we’re trying to do is expose students to other ways of thinking and to give them opportunities to expand their horizons and become global citizens,” said Dando. “We see students coming back more energized, more confidant, more sophisticated and ready to be leaders. A lot of students choose to come to CU-Boulder because they know they have so many opportunities to study abroad.”
Studying from a textbook pales in comparison to language immersion opportunities and to experiencing first-hand a country’s culture and history. Programs broaden intellectual horizons and deepen students’ understanding of international, political and economic issues. Students acquire first-hand knowledge of how another culture approaches the tasks and challenges of everyday life, gain a broader understanding of the role of the United States in international affairs, and learn how other cultures view Americans.
Study Abroad Programs at CU-Boulder has sent more than 19,000 students abroad and nearly 6 percent of those students have studied abroad multiple times.
Students can choose from more than 250 programs in 70 countries covering just about every discipline of study, from underwater marine ecology in Mexico and international business in China, to art history in France and astrophysics in New Zealand. Semester at Sea allows students to visit at least 10 different countries on the program's voyage, choosing from among 300 field activities to complement their class work.
There are a variety of ways to approach studying abroad: independent study, internships, exchange programs and CU faculty-led courses taught abroad. Students can live with a host family, stay in a dorm or live in an apartment. They can apply financial aid to the cost of the program and apply for a program specific scholarship, which can be used in tandem.
While abroad, with proper planning students can fulfill degree requirements such as required core and major classes and still graduate in four years, said Dando. Programs are offered for every major. “Studying abroad is so important and we want to continue to make Study Abroad Programs accessible to all students,” she said. “In student graduation surveys, one of the main regrets students have is that they didn't study abroad."
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