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Bridget Young

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Study Abroad is Back, but Students are Struggling

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When the college search began back in our students’ final years of high school, one of the things that likely stood out to students when scouring Goucher’s website was Goucher’s boasted study abroad program. With the pandemic halting these programs, and a slow but steady start back up, study abroad at Goucher seems to be back and roaring. 

Goucher’s study abroad program was not completely shut down in the 2021-22 school year, but there is a dramatic increase in numbers for students studying abroad. Goucher sent approximately 30 students to different programs between both semesters last school year, according to Bill Funk, Study Abroad Coordinator at the Office of Global Education (OGE). This semester alone, Funk said we have 30 students out on semester long programs, with another 30 students participating in short term Intensive Course Abroad (ICAs). 

Due to study abroad still being a requirement during the pandemic, there has been an attempt to broaden the program’s definition of study abroad. The addition of a virtual exchange course has assisted the past few graduating classes and will continue to provide options to students working with tight schedules. OGE is also looking to accept international internships and more short term programs in the near future. 

Though things may be on the up for OGE in terms of numbers and future opportunities, there may also be some problems for the current study abroad students. 

Romeo Vides ‘23, who is studying abroad this semester at Universidad Veritas in San Jose, Costa Rica, has concerns with communication and clarity. When asked if he felt supported by Goucher, he said, “I pretty much don’t feel supported at all.” 

In addition to courses taken at their host university, students on semester-long exchange are enrolled in a Goucher course on Canvas. Vides said was not made aware of this enrollment until he was sent numerous emails regarding his lack of discussion post participation. After beginning to complete the required posts, Vides said that he hasn’t heard from the instructor and does not know who they are. 

Celeste Fazioli ‘23, who is at the same program as Vides, expressed a similar sentiment. 

“To be honest, I have felt mostly independent in all of the study abroad processes, including application, registration, and while I’m here,” she said.  

While the OGE is not the only office involved with students while they are abroad, it is certainly the largest and most critical in assisting students during this portion of their Goucher education. However, with only three staff members in this office, and only one of them being a student coordinator, it’s apparent that sometimes communications may run tight. 

Funk said that there is “never a dull day in the office,” but he is happy to see students interested in international opportunities. 

With 70+ pre approved programs offered for fulfillment of the study abroad requirement, OGE is also looking forward to establishing more partnerships with universities and study abroad providers similar to ISEP in addition to hiring support for more ICA and short term programs. They are of course also hoping to hire more coordinators to increase student support for the growing number of students studying abroad. 

The study abroad program may be extending Goucher’s reach around the globe with hopes for the future, but one eye should be kept on the present by supporting the students currently abroad, especially with students’ perceptions of study abroad support from within the institution being low coupled with few staff numbers. 

As Vides put it, “If I am supposed to be a representative of Goucher, I feel that Goucher should be doing much more to support me, so I can represent them well.”

Image by Amita Chatterjee

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