Elon will launch eight new study abroad programs next fall to expand its options for students.
The new programs, known as SIT-affiliates, were introduced to students last month at a College Coffee table hosted by the Global Education Center (GEC). Paul Geis, the associate director of study abroad, said the final list of SIT programs took several years to cement.
“The model and philosophy resonates with Elon students and experiences,” he said. “The programs are very in line with what Elon students are looking for.”
Geis explained that the goal of the GEC is to eventually give students 100 percent access to global study - financially, academically and geographically. He also said SIT programs can help accomplish that goal.
“We look toward 100 percent access,” he said. “Where are there gaps in geographic distribution, in curriculum?”
‘Nontraditional’ destinationsMore students across the country are looking to study abroad in places outside of Europe. In fact, the most recent Institute of International Education (IIE) Open Doors Report found that nine of the top 15 study abroad destinations were outside the continent.
Five years ago, that number looked quite different: only six of the top 15 were located in “nontraditional” locations.
Six of the top ten study abroad destinations at Elon over the past two years have been located outside Europe.
“That’s where the future is for young graduates,” said Stacie Berdan, international career expert and author of “A Student Guide to Study Abroad” published by the IIE.
Berdan encourages undergraduates to go to less-traveled locations such as China, India, Singapore and Ghana. According to Berdan, these countries have experienced rapid economic growth, which in turn has led to job expansion among many different career fields.
This past semester, Elon students studied abroad in Argentina, Ghana, China, Singapore, Germany and South Africa, among other countries. All of these countries are considered emerging markets and nontraditional study abroad destinations.
“It’s a university’s job to explain long-term benefits to a student’s career to go into emerging markets,” Berdan said.
The GEC at Elon wants to do just that through its partnership with SIT Abroad. Geis acknowledged a lack of nontraditional locations. The new programs with SIT will open doors for students to study for a semester in atypical destinations such as Rwanda and Uganda, Brazil, Vietnam and Morocco.
“It doesn’t matter what your major is,” said Nakhila Mistry, a mathematics and religious studies major who spent two Winter Terms in India. “Any field will have an international component.”
Interdisciplinary curriculumThe eight new SIT-affiliated programs are inherently interdisciplinary, which gives students a well-rounded academic experience, Geis said.
Students will take classes in multiple disciplines, and lessons within each class will be structured with an interdisciplinary emphasis. For example, classes in the International Perspectives on Gender and Sexuality program in The Netherlands may focus primarily on gender, but topics range from social movements to sex education.
Safia Swimelar, associate professor of political science and coordinator of the peace and conflict studies minor, said she played a large role in the decision-making process. Swimelar said she believes wholeheartedly in the mission of SIT Abroad.
“All of these programs are interdisciplinary,” she said. “I believe it’s something we really value at Elon.”
Experiential learning and field-based researchAccording to the Elon Commitment, experimental learning is crucial for student development - leaving the classroom to get real-world experience. Upon arriving on campus, students are required to complete at least one of the five Elon Experiences.
Starting with the Class of 2017, students are now required to complete two.
Study abroad can effectively complement any field of study, past participants said.
“I was able to add an international perspective to my human services degree,” said senior Eryn Gorang, who participated in a semester-long service learning program in Cape Town, South Africa.
SIT allows students to immerse themselves in the language and culture, said Swimelar, who is going on a site visit to Belgrade, Serbia this spring to learn more about the Balkans Peace and Conflict program.
SIT programs include homestays for language-learning, guest speakers in the classroom and trips to museums or other countries.
Students can also immerse themselves in an independent research project on a topic of their choice in a relevant location.
Geis said that the independent field research allows for expansion and research for any major. Students need to request credit from their advisers before starting their research.
“These programs are great for students who are either already working on an independent research project or those who want to do one that involves fieldwork,” said Swimelar.
The SIT website highlights past independent study projects, such as the role of women in Vietnamese society and street art in Belgrade.
These eight new programs are meant to appeal to a wide variety of students, from the Field Studies in Journalism and New Media program in Morocco to Public Health, Race and Human Rights in Brazil, according to Geis.
For further information, students can also consult the SIT Abroad website.