UK missing the boat to study abroad: Program makes changes, sees improvement

By Nicole Schladt

UK students do not like to leave Lexington.

At least according to UK’s Education Abroad program, UK students are not studying abroad as much as other universities.

The EA office said it is not sending many students abroad compared to other institutions, such as the University of Tennessee, West Virginia University and Indiana University.

Anthony Ogden, the director of EA, suggests that the problem with UK’s program may stem from the way students have traditionally approached study abroad.

“I think UK is behind because people are comfortable in their surroundings and hesitant to go outside the box,” Seth Riker, senior EA peer adviser said.

Other Kentucky students have viewed education abroad as a trip and the EA office as a travel agency, Ogden said.

“Up until now, study abroad here has been about where. It should be a lot more about what students want to do (once they’re abroad) and how they’re going to do it,” Ogden said.

Ogden and his team of EA advisers have been working to change this outlook by focusing on the “what” and the “how” of study abroad.

In the short time Ogden has been director, he has helped the EA office double the number of UK sponsored programs, and next year he hopes to double that number again, especially in the winter session.

Ogden is also expanding international internship offerings, and Career Services at UK will be awarding an international intern of the year award next year.

“We are seeing huge growth here in education abroad at UK,” Ogden said.

Enrollments for summer abroad programs are up by 120 percent, and the EA office organized a spring education abroad fair for the first time this year, he said.

“I think just recently it’s been stressed that you don’t have to be a language or international relations major to study abroad,” Jayme Satterwhite, a junior EA peer adviser said.

There has also been more emphasis on financing an international education.

The EA office now holds a monthly session specifically about financial aid and scholarships for programs overseas.

This year the UK student fee council voted to increase the study abroad fee to $6 each semester, according to Ogden. This is the only fee that goes directly back to the students at UK in the form of EA scholarships.

“We’re really starting to align financial aid and scholarships,” Ogden said. “You can’t afford not to go.”

There are still a few minor issues with the EA program that Ogden and his team of advisers are working to fix so that UK can continue to send more students overseas in the future.

One of these issues involves the way in which the program portfolio is organized.

“Right now, there’s nothing strategic about our portfolio,” Ogden said.

To address these problems, the EA office has been realigning its entire portfolio of programs.

The portfolio is now divided into five types of programs, including UK sponsored, exchange, consortia, direct and partner.

Education Abroad is also working on curriculum integration by creating advising sheets specific to every major at UK.

These sheets will include international programs approved by faculty in each department so that students can start to integrate study abroad into their curriculums. Advising sheets for German and business majors will be released soon, and others will be available over the next two years as they become complete.

“If UK students don’t have international knowledge, experience and skills, they’re going to be left behind,” Ogden said.

The EA office remains hopeful for the future of study abroad at UK and is excited to see how some of the major changes being implemented will affect the program in coming years.

“We should be sending 1,200 students (overseas each year),” Ogden said. “If this momentum continues, we will get there in two years.”