Students, Faculty Reap Big Benefits from Study Abroad

A growing number of UT students are opting to study, conduct research, serve, and do internships abroad.

“Study abroad numbers have been steadily rising for years,” said Noah Rost, director of UT’s Programs Abroad Office and associate director of the Center for International Education.

During the 2016–17 academic year, 1,251 students went abroad. The Programs Abroad Office offers 300 programs in more than 50 countries on six continents.

“The most popular program types by far are our faculty-directed programs,” Rost said. “These account for almost 70 percent of the study abroad population. We can only offer these because we have great faculty who recognize the importance of international education and are committed to providing these opportunities to their students.” 

The Programs Abroad Office will host the Study Abroad Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. October 11 on the Johnson-Ward Pedestrian Walkway (rain location Thompson-Boling Arena). Students can visit booths to learn more about international study, intern, research, or service learning opportunities.

Faculty interested in developing a program as well as students interested in participating in study abroad should contact the Programs Abroad Office at 865-974-3177 or email studyabroad@utk.edu.

A faculty perspective

Campbell, far back left, and other members of the 2016 cohort having a picnic at the Place des Vosges in Paris.

Mary Campbell, an associate professor of art history in the School of Art, started looking into creating a study aboard program as soon as she was hired.

She’s led her program for two years now, taking students to Paris each July to study art history in the city’s museums. Because they receive three hours of general education credit for the 100-level course, Campbell’s students come from a variety of disciplines and often arrive with no art history background. As a result, they all bring a different perspective to the material they study. 

“I found that the people with chemistry backgrounds were into the history of the chemistry of paint,” she said. “The nutritionist was really interested in the different shapes and sizes of the so-called ideal body as we go through the centuries.”

Staff of the Programs Abroad Office help interested faculty prepare by working closely with them to create and develop a program.

“We help faculty identify appropriate international hosts for their programs and ensure they receive the necessary academic, cultural, and student support needed to run successful ones,” Rost said.  

While there are some logistical hurdles along the way—like guiding groups of students through the three wings of the Louvre—the payoff is seeing what the students learn along the way. Many come away with a new appreciation for the subject matter, as well as a greater understanding of themselves and the world.

“It’s been absolutely amazing—that’s the reason that I do this year after year,” Campbell said.

Two students’ perspectives

Griffith, center right, with fellow UT students outside Les Deux Magots, a famous café in Paris.

Alexa Griffith of Waverly, Tennessee, a senior in honors chemistry, was on Campbell’s trip this past summer. It was her second study abroad trip; she traveled to Peru to study Spanish for a mini-term in the summer of 2016.

“Studying abroad a second time wasn’t really planned. I decided to just go for it and apply for some scholarships, and before I knew it, I was going. It was a really awesome experience,” Griffith said.

Griffith said she gleaned much more from the experience than needed general education credits.

“Art and chemistry have a lot to do with each other, which is pretty neat. I’m actually doing a research project on paint. This experience taught me about how majors are very much related in many ways,” she said.

While study abroad is the most common international experience, other opportunities are available, too.

“We send students on international internships, international service-learning, and international research opportunities in addition to the traditional study abroad experience,” Rost said.

During her sophomore year, now-senior Tiana Castillo traveled to Sydney, Australia, with the College of Communication and Information’s Global Scholars program.

“We studied intercultural communication and I had a communication internship with a nonprofit as well,” said Castillo, who is majoring in communication studies. “It’s called School for Life Foundation and their headquarters are based in Sydney, but they built an educational school for kids in rural Uganda.”

Castillo, left, with fellow UT classmates outside the Sydney Opera House.

As a part of her internship, Castillo helped plan an annual fundraising ball for the foundation.

“One of my favorite parts was working really closely with the team on that and feeling like I had a part in such a big event, even as an intern,” she said.

Castillo now works in the Programs Abroad Office and shares her experience with other UT students as a peer advisor.

“Studying abroad aids in forming us to be a more well-rounded and informed individual,” Castillo said. “Not only do we grow academically and professionally, but also in confidence. It really puts people on the map with employers.”

Contacts

Noah Rost (865-974-3177 rost@utk.edu)

Lindsey Owen (865-974-0937, lowen8@vols.utk.edu)