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Wofford ranks fifth for study abroad participation

Regina Fuller on election night
2008-11-19

Students, faculty encouraged to become global citizens

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When Wofford College senior Regina Fuller first realized she would not be able to be at home when the United States elected its first African-American president, she was somewhat distraught. She had dreamed of that day, and that dream had included a long night of watching election returns on the TV, surrounded by her friends and family, and a final, jubilant celebration of that historic moment.

Instead, Fuller spent Nov. 4, 2008, hundreds of miles away in a foreign country – the Dominican Republic – and her situation hit her hard. “… I would not share this moment with the people I wanted to share it with the most,” she wrote on her Wofford study abroad blog. “This realization made me sad ….”

Her disappointment was replaced, though, by the praise and reception those from her host country gave to the new president-elect, and to her as a visiting “norteamericana.” “By the end of Wednesday, I was no longer sad that I was not in America or could not achieve my American election dream,” she wrote. “News anchors frequently commented that ‘the world was watching’ during the election. For the first time in my life, I was part of this world watching and felt proud to claim my patria. Dreams are sweet, but reality is so much sweeter.”

Fuller is one of the more than 250 Wofford students who will study abroad during the academic year, receiving credit toward their degrees; the Spartanburg student’s will be in government, Spanish and intercultural studies.

(Read about Fuller and other students’ experiences while studying abroad on the Wofford Study Abroad blog at http://blogs.wofford.edu/study_abroad/. Read the blog of Jonathan Hufford, Wofford’s Presidential International Scholar, at http://blogs.wofford.edu/presidential_scholar/.)

The emphasis Wofford College places on study abroad experience has earned the college a fifth-place ranking among the nation’s top baccalaureate institutions in the percentage of students receiving credit for study abroad, according to Open Doors 2008, an annual report published by the Institute of International Education (IIE), released Nov. 17, 2008. Wofford has ranked among the top 10 consistently over the past 13 years.

Other Southeastern institutions on the top 40 baccalaureate list include Centre College (4), Rhodes College (12), Washington and Lee University (17), Davidson College (26) and University of Richmond (33).

Open Doors ranks institutions as baccalaureate, master’s, and doctorate institutions. The rankings are based on number of undergraduates studying abroad and the number of degrees conferred, to get the estimated percentage of undergraduate participation in study abroad programs. Among all institutions listed, Wofford ranks seventh, with 90.3 percent. Elon University (90.1 percent) ranks third in master’s institutions, while Converse College in Spartanburg ranks 38th in that list.

“The aim of our study abroad initiatives is to generate new dimensions of knowledge, experience and understanding within a global context,” says Dr. David S. Wood, academic dean of the college.

Wofford has a number of programs that encourage and assist students wishing to study abroad, including scholarships and financial aid packages.

Among those is the 21st Century Boarding Pass, in which more than $20,000 total is awarded to first-year students planning to study in intensive language immersion programs during the January Interim. The grant program began in 2007 to encourage the study of foreign languages.”

“Wofford attributes our success in study abroad participation to an intensive ongoing orientation program that includes thorough advising and various workshops and events,” says Amy Lancaster, assistant dean for international programs and academic administration. “We encourage students to set intercultural, linguistic, academic, and other personal goals to maximize their experience. We also stress reflection as part of the process, so students are regularly considering what they are learning while working toward a common goal of global citizenship.” (Read student reflections of their experiences and observations abroad at www.wofford.edu/internationalprograms/content.aspx?id=16540.)

For the first time in Wofford’s history, students will be studying on all seven continents during the January Interim, including an independent project of two students who will study in Antarctica.

Not only are Wofford students encouraged to study abroad, but thanks to college benefactor Roger Milliken, chairman of the international textile firm of Milliken & Co., based in Spartanburg, faculty members also are supported in their efforts to gain a world view.

Milliken has pledged $400,000 for Wofford faculty to participate in the Milliken Faculty Development Seminars Abroad. Thirteen faculty and staff members will participate in 2009 in the first year of the five-year program, taking them to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for “Creating Citizens in the Americas” under the auspices of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). The group will prepare on campus during the first week of the January Interim, then travel from Jan. 11 through 24; they will present on their studies upon their return.

Future seminar locations will include Shanghai, China; and Granada, Spain/Rabat, Morocco.

This week (Nov. 17-21) Wofford celebrated International Education Week with a number of events, including a student panel on study abroad experiences and a film sponsored by the department of foreign languages.  On Thursday, Nov. 20, the college will host a Study Abroad Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Anna Todd Wofford Center that will feature representatives from approved study abroad programs.  On Friday, Nov. 21, Wofford and Converse College's International Student Association will co-host the International Extravaganza from 8:30 p.m. to midnight in the Converse Auxiliary Gym.  The event will feature food, music and dance from around the world.  The cost is $5, and the public is invited to attend.