Study abroad for UC advisors
UC International gives academic and student life advisors a study abroad experience like their students have
For the second year, a group of advisors from across UC’s campus got a firsthand look at a faculty-led study abroad program. A spring break trip to the University of Zagreb in Croatia gave them a glimpse of a significant student experience. The goal of the Study Abroad for Advisors program is to engage advisors more closely in UC’s international work and to let them know what study abroad is like for their students.
Ryan Meyer, Associate Director of International Programs (Study Abroad) in the UC International Office, traces the program to suggestions from the advisors themselves. “It really came from them saying, ‘I think the best way for us to be on board is to really know what this experience is like for students, meaning the prep, the thought behind it, and then the experience itself.’”
UC International was looking to those “influencers”— academic advisors, Student Activities & Leadership Development advisors, resident education advisors and financial aid advisors — to encourage a broader and more diverse set of students to go abroad.
The first Study Abroad for Advisors program was led in 2018 by Meyer and former UC International staff member Cory Smith. That group of advisors and faculty visited Universidad Europea and Universidad Carlos III in Madrid and the University of Bordeaux. Bordeaux is one of UC’s strategic international partners, a university with which UC has university-wide connections that include faculty and student exchange, research collaborations and dual courses and degree programs. Europea and Carlos III are exchange partners.
The trip was organized to mimic an actual faculty-led program, with preparatory meetings and common flight and travel arrangements, as well as group meals and activities. The advisors spent their days in discussions amongst themselves and with their counterparts at the other universities.
They came back with plenty to work on. Their follow-up projects include curriculum matching and a living/learning community where students with international interests dorm together (in development for fall 2020). They also came back with new ideas about what UC can do for its own incoming exchange students.
This spring’s group traveled to the University of Zagreb, another strategic partner university. The participants included honors program advisors, a career center advisor from the College of Business, a financial aid advisor and academic advisors from several colleges, including the College of Medicine. Meyer co-led this group with Crystal Craycraft, a study abroad advisor in UC International.
This group got more than a typical faculty-led study abroad experience. The visit coincided with Zagreb’s Erasmus+ International Staff Week, which drew attendees from Zagreb’s partners worldwide. Zagreb integrated UC’s group into the week’s activities. Ryan calls it “a unique opportunity to speak with not only the University of Zagreb but their partners from around the world. We were interacting with professionals from Korea, Poland, Australia and France, which was really unique for our advisors. It gave us a much bigger platform to share who we are and why we do what we do.”
The group gave a presentation about academic advising, which is not common outside the US, as curricula for incoming students in many other parts of the world are more structured. The presentation proved very engaging for its international audience.
Craycraft gained a new appreciation for the work of her colleagues, too. “I think it’s one of the ways that in the US we take intentional steps towards making higher education more accessible and inclusive for people. There’s a whole team of people to help students through the college experience if they’re unfamiliar with how it works.”
Zagreb arranged individual meetings for UC staff with their counterparts there. The group got the full study-abroad experience as well, with tours and a day trip to the Faculty of Informatics extension campus in the historic town of Varaždin.
Meyer hopes to host the program again, taking it in new directions in upcoming years, depending on UC’s goals and developing partnerships. Now that two cohorts of advisors have had a close-up view of the study abroad experience, he sees a real energy building for collaboration across campus. This year’s group is still planning the follow-up projects they want to work on.
Featured image: A group of UC advisors poses for a photo in Varaždin, Croatia, during a visit to the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Organization and Informatics campus in 2019.