SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Meals in Morocco. Coffee in Brazil. Lunch on a street-side table in Paris. Lessons learned in Barcelona.
Viewing a map of the world, one would need a lot of pins to identify all the places Wofford students have visited over the years as part of the college’s study abroad programs.
Logan Miller, a senior finance major from Savannah, Ga., spent the first semester of his junior year in New Zealand. He described it as a transformative experience.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ll ever have in my life,” Miller says. “I met people there I’ll forever talk to and keep in touch with. It’s definitely a place I want to revisit.”
Wofford students typically study abroad as part of January Interim programs or over a full semester for multicourse programs that fit their majors. Summer programs also are available.
Wofford continues to be recognized among the top colleges in the country for study abroad participation for credit. The annual Open Doors Report, released this week by the Institute of International Education, ranks Wofford as 12th among the top 40 baccalaureate colleges in undergraduate participation in study abroad. The college is 20th in that group for the total number of students who studied abroad, and at 17th Wofford is among the leading institutions by short-term duration of study abroad and institutional type. “As a national residential liberal arts college, we prepare our students to become leaders in the world, to have a global reach in their thinking and problem solving, and to make a difference,” says Dr. Michael S. Sosulski, Wofford’s provost. “We take pride in providing our students with opportunities to learn beyond the classroom. Studying abroad gives them culturally immersive experiences that broaden their perspectives and their understanding of themselves in a globally connected world.”
Amy Lancaster, dean of international programs, says, “Study abroad challenges students in ways that develop important life and professional skills, such as intercultural skills, tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to think more critically. They become more self-aware and independent as a result of their immersion in another culture.”
It’s exactly why the college emphasizes study abroad.
“We pride ourselves on our approach to international programming, which sets us apart from other institutions. We very hands-on in advising students, which mirrors what we do on campus for regular study in terms of preparation,” Lancaster continues. “We help students navigate which program works for them and their goals. We offer more than 200 options, and we allow all scholarships to apply and travel with them overseas for semester study abroad.”
Victoria Nwankudu, a senior Spanish major from Florence, S.C., has studied and conducted research in South Africa, Peru, Morocco and Argentina.
“In all the places I’ve been, I feel like I’ve learned the most from doing research projects that involved direct contact with the people in the areas I visited,” she says. “You can learn only so much in the classroom, but interacting with the people who have lived the experience and can talk about how it impacted their lives – that’s big.”
Nwankudu, who was a Wofford Presidential International Scholar, said “wanderings” on her visits produced valuable information and contacts that she could not match in other avenues, particularly for her research projects.
“In Argentina, I literally wandered around asking every person with dark skin where they were from,” she says. “You make a lot of friends that way. Initially, there is some suspicion about what you’re doing, but the more you move around and talk the more friends you make. And I taught English in a shantytown there.”
Nwankudu says she chose Wofford because of the possibilities of study abroad and its small class sizes, and her experiences overseas have convinced her some form of research work is in her post-Wofford future.
“Every international experience I’ve had because of Wofford stands out, but the Presidential International Scholar made me want to do research for a living,” she says. “Talking and interacting with people, learning about their social movements and the impact of language on those all have been important to me.”
Senior Emily Griffin, a double major in Spanish and finance from Fair Play, S.C., will have visited 13 countries, including South Africa, Ecuador and Spain, when she graduates in May 2019.
“The thing I learned while I was abroad are about more than the subjects of study,” she says. “While the subjects were important, I think study abroad is more about the experience, learning as you go and learning about yourself as well. I never would have thought I would be able to go to Spain and live independently on my own.”
Abbey Brasington, a senior psychology major from Woodruff, S.C., is a Wofford frequent flyer. She has visited Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Ireland as part of Interim programs and adds Morocco to that list in January.
Along the way, Brasington swam with dolphins in the Pacific, learned the art of Irish storytelling in Dublin and studied invasive species in Australia.
Among the benefits of Interim travel/study programs, according to Brasington, is the expertise of Wofford professors along for the ride.
“Dr. (Peter) Schmunk led us on a walk around Rome,” she says. “He showed us a lot of the hidden gems. He’s been there a lot and knows so much about it. We saw sort of the ‘back’ side of Rome.”
Because of the many positive aspects of studying abroad, Lancaster says her office is actively pursuing ways to expand access to more Wofford students and eliminate perceived barriers. “Some students won’t study abroad because they think it’s too expensive,” she says. “Others think they may not be able to graduate on time. We try to dispel those myths in our outreach.”
For more about Wofford’s study abroad program, visit www.wofford.edu/internationalprograms. To read the full Open Doors report, go to www.iie.org/research-and-publications/open-doors.