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Study Abroad reaches goal with more participation from students

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A photo of the white study abroad building in a vintage house right off the main campus.
The Thornton House hosts the Texas State Study Abroad office.

Photo by Geoff Sloan | News Reporter

The Study Abroad Office made a pledge in 2014 to increase the number of students studying abroad by the end of the decade. The pledge was met early.

In Feb. 2014, Texas State made a goal to, increase student participation by 50 percent by 2020. This is according to their support for a nation-wide effort to increase universities’ percentage of students studying outside of the U.S. from the Generation Study Abroad Initiative.

The goal was met during the 2015-2016 academic year with 783 students partaking in summer, single-semester and year-long study abroad trips but the office looks to further this effort.

The Study Abroad Office met this goal but still looks to increase the number of Texas State students abroad.

The increase in students studying abroad has made an impact on many Texas State students and has brought in many foreign exchange students to study in San Marcos.

Ila Mar, Study Abroad Office representative, worked to make their goal of future increased participation a reality and has continued to work to increase the level of foreign study by students.

“It’s been a huge collaborative effort,” Mar said. “We’ve worked very closely with the departments, chairs, deans and faculty to show their support for study abroad.”

Having professors advocating for study abroad and creating their own faculty-led programs are two major ways students have become more knowledgable and active in study abroad over the past few years.

Jeremy Peña has seen the increase in students going abroad since he started at the Center for International Studies Program Coordinator in 2013.

The Study Abroad Office goal set in 2014 and Peña’s start as the Program Coordinator both came at a time when an increasing number of international studies students were studying abroad.

“Around the same time (as the goal) is when we made it a requirement for international studies majors to complete a global studies requirement,” Peña said. “The easiest way for students to do that was to participate in a study abroad program.”

The global studies requirement and study abroad for students outside the Center for International Studies have been made possible through financial aid from individuals who believe in an international experience.

Looking forward, Peña has worked with members across the university to further the increased number of students studying outside the U.S. with increased financial aid for students.

“We have been very fortunate to have donors and board members that contribute scholarships specifically for students studying abroad so it lessens the financial burden,” Peña said. “For instance, we have a program going to Costa Rica in the summer. We have about 20 students and all of them received some sort of funding.”

The Study Abroad Office has been working to diversify the types of students studying abroad, mainly through increased access to funding for programs similar to the one in Costa Rica.

“There is a pretty standard demographic across the country of students actually going abroad and we wanted to see more variety of people, not just with majors but particularly with underrepresented students,” Mar said.

With increased scholarship opportunities from Texas State and its affiliated study abroad program providers, the likelihood of having new demographics of students is possible.

“The changing demographics in higher education, in general, calls for students to have a more global perspective,” Peña said. “Study abroad does that.”

Students studying abroad from other universities are hosted at Texas State as well, adding to the international experience the university strives for.

Tristan Roger, urban planning major at Université Rennes 2 in Rennes, France, has been studying geography at Texas State this spring semester.

As an urban planning major, Roger believes both the classroom facilities in the Geography Department and his impactful professors have been major benefits to studying at Texas State.

“I love my teachers, I love my classes. I love all the class facilities like the computers and the GIS software,” Roger said.

Aside from the academic benefits of studying at Texas State, Roger feels his time abroad has been an experience of personal growth.

“I think it benefits everyone; it’s opened my mind,” Roger said. “I met so many new people with so many new perspectives on the world. It’s cliché to say, but my mind was opened so much thanks to my study abroad experience.”

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