UK wins international award for study abroad

By Alli O’Connor

UK has been internationally recognized for one of its study abroad programs.

The Discover Germany-Discover USA program was awarded the 2012 Andrew Heiskell Award for its achievement in international education.

The university was recognized for internationalizing the campus by incorporating successful models of education in a partnership between UK and the German Fulbright Commission.

“It’s very gratifying because all of us in this program appreciate the value of an international experience for increasing the quality education UK provides our students,” said J.J. Jackson, vice president for institutional diversity at UK.

“It’s a testament to UK,” she said. “When you want a quality education for your students you look for a way to do it.”

The program is a cultural exchange rooted in diversity. Through a selection process, 20 students from diverse backgrounds, either minority, Appalachian or first-generation college students, are chosen to attend Freie Universität for a five-week

study abroad session in Berlin.

In return, 20 to 25 German students come to UK each September.

“It is kind of a self-identity experience by seeing themselves through someone else’s eyes,” Jackson said.

This program offers students a cultural, educational and political perspective on an international level by immersing them directly into foreign classrooms and letting them learn what each country has to offer.

The award for internationalizing the campus is issued by the Institute of International Education. It recognized the benefits

and opportunities of the two-way program that Discover Germany-Discover USA offers.

“The committee thought we had the most unique experience and that is why we got the award,” Jackson said.

UK student Meiah Midgett said when she went to Germany in June, the program provided public transportation passes, so students could go anwhere. She said downtown Berlin was her favorite because of the shopping, tourist attractions and historic sites.

“The culture there was unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life,” Midgett said in an email to the Kernel. “It was so diverse seeing people from all different cultures from around the world. We saw things there that we read about in world history class that we probably never imagined that we’d see.

“How much more innovative can it get then to allow students who do well in school to be rewarded with the opportunity to go to Berlin?”

The selection process has evolved since the program started in 2008.

The first year, students went to Germany and had no experience with the German language, which made it difficult to get acquainted in a new foreign environment, Jackson said.

The second group that went was encouraged to take an extensive German course prior to leaving to speed up the process of integrating in the program.

“Next year, my recommendation would be to require the students to take a German course in the spring to be selected,” Jackson said. “They would get so much more out of it.”

John Yopp, associate provost for educational partnerships and international affairs, said his international partners have all commented on the program.

“They say that for us to recognize the need to place our international students from underrepresented groups in a German setting is a role model for other countries,” Yopp said.

Jackson and Yopp will attend a ceremony in New York to receive the award on behalf of the university and the Discover Germany-Discover USA program.

“I feel humbled,” Yopp said. “I feel so grateful that UK has created and sustained this program. It’s hard to explain how this feels; it means so much to have this program recognized.”