[Fresh] International Studies Interview

Kelly Donio (kelly.donio@villanova.edu)
Mon, 27 Mar 2006 20:46:06 -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. Another “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 allow students to enroll in overseas universities
to take classes with students from that country. Villanova is affiliated
with many programs of this type, and this year alone VU students are at
over 50 universities in 25 nations. “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 the Turks and Caicos, 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 programs. There
is the Villanova University Study Center 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. In addition, starting
next year there will be a directed research program for Villanova
University students at the University of Melbourne (allowing greater
immersion) through the Australian Center, and a service-learning program
in London. The programs reflect both a commitment to the university’s
mission in study abroad, while allowing us to maintain greater quality
control.

Fresh@News: How many students participate in these programs per semester?
Mr. Kenney: This academic year we had nearly 700 students studying
overseas, approximately half in summer programs and half in semester- or
year-long programs. These numbers translate into a high percentage of
the student body: in last year’s graduating class, one-third 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. 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
http://www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu/parents/parents.htm.

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,
http://www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu/scholarship.htm.

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,
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
(http://www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu/summer/summer.htm) 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
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 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.

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, 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 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 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). Also look at the new
parent-specific pages on our website,
http://www.internationalstudies.villanova.edu/parents/parents.htm

For these issues and the host of others that will arise before, during,
and after the study abroad experience, communication is the key. It is
imperative that the student stays in contact with the Office of
International Studies. This advice is the most important for parents.
Keeping the OIS ‘in the loop’ helps us to help you.

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