[Fresh] International Studies Interview

Kelly Donio (kelly.donio@villanova.edu)
Tue, 01 Mar 2005 11:15:20 -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
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 56
universities in 22 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
marine life the Caribbean, 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 114 students studying overseas
in the Fall and approximately 195 in the Spring. During the
summer, roughly 300 students participate in one of 15
international programs that are overseen by Villanova
University. These numbers translate into a high percentage
of the student body: in last year’s graduating class, 28% of
the students had studied abroad.

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, students should have applications
finished before the mid-semester break prior to the semester
they wish to be overseas (by Fall Break if they want to go
in the spring, by Spring Break if they want to go in the
fall). As with most things, completion of applications
should be done ‘sooner’ rather than ‘later.’

There is a three step process for students. First, students
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 individual
meetings comprise the second step. A staff member will
discuss with the student in greater detail the program
options and that student’s 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 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 staff member from
International Studies 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. All other costs
(housing, orientation, etc.) will be paid by students on
their own, either to the sending institution or the
university where they are studying. All financial aid,
grants, and scholarships that students receive when they are
on campus still credit against their Villanova tuition when
they are overseas. Information on the international tuition
policy—and the reasons for it—is available from the Office
of International Studies, or from the Parents’ Website at

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 at
the Office’s website,

Fresh@News: Can you tell me a little about the summer
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, Russia); international
business programs (based in Chile, China, England, Italy,
Germany, Poland, or Spain); or discipline specific (rhetoric
and performance in Greece, 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
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 first
semester seniors can now study abroad. 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

Fresh@News: What kind of support does the University provide
to students who are abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Since most students study overseas through
select sending institutions, 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 and safety, housing, passports, and culture shock.
The students receive a monthly newsletter from this office,
and communicate with us any time through their Villanova
email account. 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

Fresh@News: Given the current situation in the US, are there
any concerns about the safety of our students when they go
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, 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 Overseas Security Advisory Council,
the sending institutions, 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

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 of, 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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