[Fresh] International Studies Interview

Kelly Eastland (kelly.eastland@villanova.edu)
Thu, 06 Feb 2003 16:12:35 -0500

Interview with Mr. Lance Kenney, Director of the Office of International Studies

Fresh@News: More and more students seem to study abroad at some point. What are some of the
benefits of studying abroad?

Mr. Kenney: There are two types of benefits, the immediate and the long-term. Immediate
benefits can be academic, such as studying a new field or enhancing your learning in a new
way. The most important and obvious 'immediate benefit' is language acquisition. Though
many Villanova students go to English-speaking countries, we can send students all over
the world to perfect their abilities in a language they've already studied or to learn a new
one. The best way to learn a language is to go to a country where it is spoken, and as we
use words like 'globalization' and 'multinational' on a daily basis, the ability to speak
another language becomes more important.

The field of international education has devoted a lot of time in the past ten years to
researching long-term benefits. Studies have shown that study abroad makes students more
empathetic to other cultures, confident, and aware of world events. They are more aware of
career options and career goals, more willing to take challenges, and, for these reasons,
more attractive to employers.

Fresh@News: What kind of programs does Villanova offer?
Mr. Kenney: Villanova University basically has three types of programs. 'Traditional'
programs are universities, groups of universities, or overseas universities that place
students directly in classes with other students from the host country. Villanova is
affiliated with many programs of this type, and this semester alone VU students are at over
50 universities in 20 countries. 'Nontraditional' programs, though, allow students to not
only take classes overseas but also to do something outside of the classroom. For instance,
many students are doing international internships, volunteer work, service learning, or
field research. We've had students working at businesses in Sydney, researching animals in
Kenyan game reserves, studying the rain forests in Costa Rica, and interviewing politicians
in Dublin (just to name a few). As more and more US students study overseas, these
'nontraditional' programs become more popular.

Finally, Villanova University has its own study abroad program at the National University of
Ireland, Galway. Villanova students get to live and study with Irish students while
participating in a program designed just for them. Villanova's Resident Director organizes
study tours, oversees orientation and registration, and directs them in special research
projects. Given the long historical connections between Galway and Villanova, this program
is especially popular.

Fresh@News: How many students participate in these programs per semester?
Mr. Kenney: This year we had 96 students studying overseas in the Fall and 167 in the
Spring. Our spring numbers are 20% higher than this time last year, and our total numbers
have more than doubled in five years. In fact, these figures don't include the Villanova
summer programs: last summer, we had roughly 250 students on international summer programs
sponsored by the University.

Fresh@News : When should a student begin the study abroad process and what does it entail?
Mr. Kenney: Normally, students should begin to plan their overseas study by going to the
Office of International Studies six to nine months prior to departure to the overseas
university or program. However, the programs that Villanova utilizes are on rolling
admissions, meaning that in some cases programs are 'filled' before stated deadlines but in
other cases applications are accepted after stated deadlines. In general, the Office of
International Studies cannot guarantee a
placement after the middle of March (for first semester and year-long exchanges in the
subsequent academic year) or after the middle of October (for spring semester exchanges of
the same academic year). As with most things, completion of applications should be done
'sooner' rather than 'later.'

There is a three step process for students. First, student should complete the initial
application form in the Office of International Studies and attend the informational
counseling session in Middleton Hall. The session will review the necessary academic
components and will teach students how to research programs. After researching the options,
students can schedule an individual appointment with the Office of International Studies.
The Director,Assistant Director, or Overseas Study Coordinator will discuss in greater
detail the options and individual needs. Students may also need to meet with the department
chair, academic adviser, or language instructor to review the academic audit or curriculum
sheet. Ultimately, in conjunction with the Office of International Studies, students will
complete the Prior Approval Form, choosing the courses (4-5 plus two alternates) to be taken
overseas and determining how credit will be awarded. The last step is to return the VU Prior
Approval form (with signatures from the chair and dean) to the Office of International
Studies. At that time, the Director, Assistant Director, or Overseas Study Coordinator will
review the overseas application and answer any remaining questions.

Fresh@News: How much does it cost to study abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Students will pay Villanova University tuition for the semester they are
overseas. They pay housing on their own, either to the sending institution or the
university where they are studying. All financial aid, grants, and scholarships can be
transferred with the student. For the most part, it is no more expensive to study overseas
for a semester or a year than to stay at Villanova University.

In addition, a variety of scholarships are available for students studying overseas. Some
of these scholarships are offered by Villanova University for honors students or students
studying in 'nontraditional' areas; alternately, scholarships are available from some US
sending institutions or other endowments. This information also is available in the Office
of International Studies.

Fresh@News: Can you tell me a little about the summer programs?
Mr. Kenney: Villanova has sixteen summer programs. These programs are intensive language
and literature programs (Spanish, French, Arabic, Italian, German); area studies programs
(Latin America, Ireland); international business programs (based in Chile, Germany, England,
Italy, or Poland); or discipline specific (rhetoric and performance in Greece, theater in
Scotland, art history in Italy). Each of the programs has a Villanova University faculty
member as an on-site
coordinator and provides excellent opportunities for students that wouldn't normally study
overseas or cannot fit it in to their schedules. Information on the programs is available
from our website (www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu) or from our annual brochure which
is distributed on campus.

Fresh@News: When do most students study abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Most students study abroad during their junior year. However, more and more
students are finding this difficult, usually because of degree requirements. Both the
Colleges of Commerce and Finance and Nursing have special programs allowing sophomores to
study overseas, and some first semester seniors have been known to study abroad (with the
approval of their deans). In general, the 'when' isn't as important as the 'why.'

Fresh@News: Can students in all four colleges participate?
Mr. Kenney: Yes. Though we usually associate study abroad with the College of Arts and
Sciences, the number of students from Commerce and Finance has increased dramatically in the
past three years. In addition, the College of Nursing has a special program which allows
second-year nursing students to study in the United Kingdom. And though Engineering
students have very strict schedules, with enough advanced planning and preparation it is
possible for them to study overseas for a semester as well.

Fresh@News: What kind of support does the University provide to students who are abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Since most students study overseas through select program providers, the
on-site support and counseling is provided by those institutions. The most important
support that the Office of International Studies provides is regular communication,
particularly in regards to course selection and approval. We also provide advice on health,
housing, passports, etc. In short, through this communication we become expert
international trouble-shooters. Of course, this communication took a different turn in the
days and weeks after September 11, when we were assuring students that we had the ability
not only to bring them home (in case of an emergency) but also to get them in to housing and
classes/independent studies to keep them graduating on time. Thankfully, we didn't have to
enact these emergency plans.

Fresh@News: Given the current situation in the US, are there any concerns about the safety
of our students when they go abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Both the Office of International Studies and the field of international
education as a whole have been very conscious of safety issues given recent events. We have
no reason to believe that students are in greater danger because they are overseas. The
University is very select about which programs it approves students to go on, and these few
programs must have demonstrated a commitment to health and safety issues. Students aren't
allowed to participate in
'island' programs which would make them stand out, and in non-English speaking countries,
all students must study the host country language. In other words, our requirements for
student immersion are an extension of safety concerns.

Most importantly, though, students are fully briefed on health and safety issues both in
individual meetings and at the mandatory pre-departure orientation. The Office of
International Studies stays in regular contact with the State Department, the program
providers, and professionals in the host countries. Both as a university and a
representative of international education, we are united in saying that safety issues should
NOT inhibit students from studying overseas at this time.
Fresh@News: How are the students when they return?
Mr. Kenney: Self-confident, independent, energized. Most are anxious to go back, and ready
to tell friends and family how much they have changed for the better. Some have
difficulties readjusting to the United States, but we have the opportunity to talk to them
about these issues at our 'welcome back' orientation.

Fresh@News: Do you have any advice for parents?
Mr. Kenney: Parents are the most powerful advocates for international education. The first
piece of advice I would have for parents is to encourage your student to study abroad.
We've already mentioned some of the benefits of studying overseas. The benefits to the
student-professionally, academically, personally-are staggering.

Second, encourage your student to be in contact with the Office of International Studies and
Overseas Programs. 'Word of mouth' and 'a friend told me...' are often detrimental when
beginning the process of finding an overseas program. This Office should be the starting
point, with an initial counseling/session that will answer major questions (credits,
courses, costs) and review the major sources for researching program options.

Finally, encourage your son/daughter to think of their study abroad opportunities within the
parameters of their needs: what program will help me to develop a skill relevant to my
major/minor/career plans/interests? In which program will I learn the most and become more
fully immersed in another culture? Which programs allow me learning opportunities both in
and out of the classroom? Remember, the study abroad experience is an extension, not a
break from, your student's Villanova education. An excellent resource for these subjects
and others is Study Abroad: A Parent's Guide, written by William W. Hoffa and published by
NAFSA-Association of International Educators (available on request from the Office of
International Studies).

For these issues and the host of others that will arise before, during, and after the study
abroad experience, communication is the key. With all administrative questions (credit
transfer, program details, course scheduling, etc.) it is imperative that the student stays
in contact with the Office of International Studies. For all academic questions (course
approval, graduation requirements, credit weighting, etc.) the student should stay in
contact with either the chair of the department or his/her academic adviser. This advice is
the most important for parents. Keeping the OIS 'in the loop' helps us to help you.

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