This summer, Spartans are opening their suitcases and their minds for travel abroad. Higher education involves applying knowledge by experience and broadening students’ view of the world. This is why UNC Greensboro (UNCG) works to make study abroad accessible to all students, regardless of their field of study or financial circumstances.
According to the International Programs Center (IPC), which oversees international travel for the entire University, UNCG sent over 350 students abroad during the 2022-23 school year. IPC is pleased to see study abroad numbers rebounding to the pre-COVID average of around 400 students per year.
“Students are supported and encouraged to study abroad from every corner of campus, and they come to UNCG because of our study abroad opportunities,” says Derek Bradley, associate director for study abroad and exchanges. “Global study is in our DNA.”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
This year, students went to 26 different countries around the world. The most popular destinations were Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, South Korea and Japan. Some are traveling with faculty-led groups and others are traveling for individual internships or research opportunities, but all are enhancing their view of the world.
The UNCG men’s basketball team is even in on the game. They’ll be traveling to Africa this summer to teach a basketball clinic for young athletes.
According to IPC sourced statistics, 73% of employers value study abroad experience. Cross cultural experience, strategic international understanding, and enhanced interpersonal skills are traits that employers look for.
IPC works to provide pathways for students who want to study abroad. From determining credit options to finding funding, IPC can chart a plan that meets individual student interests and any field of study.
The World is Our Classroom
Courses taken abroad count toward a student’s total credits and trips often include research to fulfill graduation requirements. It’s a win-win for students looking to broaden their horizons.
Spartans traveling abroad this year represent 72 different majors. Travel for language and culture immersion is common, but many students take advantage of research opportunities abroad and often they are not required to speak the language.
Dauria Harrison is a deaf education major who is traveling to Costa Rica to improve her Spanish language skills. She will live with a host family, immerse herself in the culture, and enjoy sights and experiences of Central America. Harrison hopes that the trip will give her perspective on how to teach deaf and hard-of-hearing children from Spanish-speaking families.
Angie Moore, a nursing major, will travel to St. Kitts and Nevis with classmates to help with disaster preparation in the Carribean. They are touring hospitals and collecting data for disaster management and learning about the rich history and culture of the islands. Moore received financial aid from FAFSA and a mobile health scholarship to help fund the experience. In addition to their studies, the group will enjoy snorkeling, zip lining and hikes.
Even further flung to Tanzania is where Stephanie Fisher-Huynh is headed with three other students on African American Diaspora Studies’ (AADS) first trip to East Africa. After Tanzania, she’ll travel again to Costa Rica. Fisher-Huynh is a biology major with a chemistry and AADS minor, who is passionate about women’s health issues.
While in Zanzibar and Costa Rica, Fischer-Huynh plans to interview women about sex education and health for a comparative study that highlights the discrepancies between public health and the Black community.
“This study wraps up all of my passions and demonstrates my ability to apply interdisciplinary studies,” says Fisher-Huynh.
Broadening Horizons for All
Although many college students claim that travel is important to them, study abroad data indicates that only 15% of students end up traveling abroad before graduation. Most assume that they can’t afford it. UNCG’s IPC staff has the perfect response for this.
“We like to tell students that if you can afford to go to UNCG, you can afford to study abroad,” Bradley says.
Ninety percent of UNCG students studying abroad for a semester or year are doing an exchange program, which means they pay regular UNCG tuition and fees, rather than tuition and fees abroad. Furthermore, all students studying abroad can use their full financial aid package. That’s why over 40% of the participants in UNCG’s study abroad programs are Pell grant recipients.
“UNCG is incredibly successful at mobilizing students with financial aid due to our strong portfolio of exchange programs and the ways we connect students to scholarship funds,” Bradley adds. “Our Gilman scholarship stats speak for themselves!”
The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship is a popular national organization helping students with financial need to study abroad. The scholarship, named after the late New York congressman who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the Committee on International Relations, was developed in 2001 to increase access for study abroad and prepare the nation’s future workforce for positions in national security and global finance.
According to stats gathered since the scholarship’s inception, UNCG students have received over 171 Gilman Scholarships – the most of any school in North Carolina.
“Don’t Underestimate Yourself“
Whether the question is funding or study opportunities, IPC and UNCG faculty are working together to make travel abroad available to students who never thought they’d be able to see the world. Two of these students are Anthony Hines and Allison Hughes, biology majors who applied for a research opportunity in Paris.
Hines and Hughes didn’t know each other, but they had an evolution class in common and found their similarities didn’t end there. They are both Piedmont Triad natives who never really considered studying abroad before. After exploring majors in media studies and business, they were drawn to biology and found a love of science and lab research at UNCG. On a whim, each applied for the research position with around 50 other biology majors throughout the state.
“I barely understood the functional morphology job listing, but I just figured ‘why not?’ I’d rather be traveling the world trying out new things than to do nothing at all,” said Hughes.
Hughes and Hines were among eleven who qualified for a lab training session during spring break. They made the final cut of six and are headed to France in June. There, they will work in a research lab for six weeks at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Both will receive a stipend for their work and all expenses will be paid through the National Science Foundation’s International Research Experiences for Students program.
Hughes and Hines are as excited about the lab experience as they are about having free time to explore Europe on the weekends.
“It reminds me of a novel or a movie,” says Hughes. “I’m running off to Paris for six weeks this summer to do something that I really enjoy doing. Coming to UNCG has allowed me to pursue passions I didn’t even know I had.”
Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photos submitted by students studying abroad in 2023.