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Study abroad at SMC reflects national trends

Liz Harter | Monday, November 24, 2008

The Institute of International Education recently released the 2008 Open Doors annual report with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The report shows an eight percent jump in the number of U.S. students studying abroad and a seven percent increase in the number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities, a trend reflected by students at Saint Mary’s.

The College has more than 20 different study abroad opportunities in locations in Africa, South America, Europe, Haiti, South Korea and China. With the number of sites more than doubling in the past five years, according to a press release.

There are also seven international students enrolled at Saint Mary’s from the countries of China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Iraq and Guatemala.

College President Carol Ann Mooney said internationalization is a priority for Saint Mary’s in her five-year strategic plan, “The Path to Leadership 2012,” which was released last fall.

Mooney’s plan calls for increasing the percentage of students who study abroad by the time they graduate to 50 percent and increasing the number of international students who study at the College.

Mooney announced this fall that the College has joined the American Council of Education’s (ACE) Internationalization Laboratory to work on achieving these goals, according to the press release.

ACE invites a handful of colleges to work in its laboratory for 18 months, the press release said, allowing them the opportunity to review the College’s current array of international initiatives, assess the international expertise of the faculty, and review the College’s global education plans, among other things.

“Today’s graduates must be prepared to work and compete with colleagues from around the globe and potentially to spend some portion of their careers living outside of the United States,” Mooney said in the press release. “To prepare our students to fully participate in the emerging global community, we must expand their opportunities for international studies and further internationalize the College community and its curriculum.”

Junior Meghan Kelly said she thinks it is wonderful that Mooney has made studying internationally and bringing international students to Saint Mary’s a priority.

“It was an excellent opportunity for me, and for all the girls who want to study abroad,” said Kelly, who studied in Seville, Spain for the entirety of her sophomore year and participated in the Poland to Prague program over Spring Break her freshman year. “It’s the reason I came to Saint Mary’s.”

She said she chose to study abroad because she wanted to live in a culture that she had only read about in books.

“I wanted to live with a real family and get an idea about how they go about their daily lives, because I wondered if family life there was any different than what I am used to seeing at home,” Kelly said. “I wanted to hear the language every single day instead of just inside the classroom for 50 minutes and students [who study abroad] like myself want to be able to pass by every single day the famous buildings they have learned about in class and experience living in a city where history was made.”

Kelly said Mooney isn’t the only person who has made internationalization a priority.

“I can tell how much the professors care [about it],” she said. “Dr. Dave [Stefancic] took us to Poland and he is just obsessed with the culture as I was, and Professor [Jennifer] Zachman, who sent us to Spain, came to Spain and took us to dinner.

“They have experienced the culture already and they want us to be just as passionate about it as they are.”