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The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Office of Education Abroad rolls out expansion of programs and locations for students

Photo Contributed by Kailee Ortega
Kailee Ortega and her friends in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea. While Ortega was studying abroad, she said she met people from other universities who also chose to study abroad in a similar program.

The study abroad programs within the Center for Global Engagement at California Lutheran University recently expanded to offer a wide range of locations, academic tracks, and faculty-led travel seminars for students to participate in. 

Matthew Yates, director of the Office of Education Abroad, spoke about new program expansions available for students, as well as how the CGE is adapting to fit the needs of their students.

“We currently now have, starting in spring of 2024, 51 semester tracks at 49 different locations,” Yates said. “The academic and geographic options are now way more diverse.”

Yates said the semester-based study abroad program is expanding to include all seven continents, including an upcoming program that begins in Argentina and relocates to Antarctica. In addition, Yates said students can apply to partake in a number of faculty-led travel seminars being offered in the spring.

Over the past year, Yates said he has made a conscious effort to bring more opportunities to students of all disciplines, while also taking into account the financial responsibility that comes with studying abroad.

“Part of what I did in this last year was to do a lot of research to revamp our portfolio of approved options that are more affordable, so more students can go abroad,” Yates said. “Cal Lutheran has a financial model that allows all students who do a semester program abroad to use their full financial aid package. As a result of that, students can study abroad roughly for the same price that they stay on campus.”

While the new faculty-led programs are not taking place until spring, Yates said he has already seen an increase in the number of students interested in joining a semester-based study abroad program.

“In fall of 2021, we had our first students go abroad; we had 11,” Yates said. “This last year was 23, and for spring we’re projecting we’re going to have about 35 to 40. This last academic year, so that would include faculty-led programs as well as summer, we had 137 students.”

Yates said there is no question as to why the CGE is seeing an influx of students who are interested in studying abroad. Yates also said that universal curiosity is a driving factor in why students are choosing such programs.

“They’re all very diverse students. They’re all very interesting and have different perspectives, but if I had to say there was one common thread it’s curiosity,” Yates said. “Something I’ve really tried to encourage whenever I go talk to prospective students about education abroad, whether they’re at Cal Lutheran or elsewhere, is trying to light the fire of curiosity under them so that they want to do a challenging experience. 

Senior Kailee Ortega participated in a semester abroad to Seoul, South Korea last fall.

“It was probably the best experience I am ever going to have in my life to be honest,” Ortega said.

Ortega said her experience abroad was filled with moments of personal growth, both as a student and as a traveler. Ortega said discomfort can sometimes be our biggest motivator when it comes to personal growth and is crucial to the study abroad experience.

“Be okay with stepping outside of your comfort zone,” Ortega said. “You have to be okay being uncomfortable, and that goes for language, talking to people, food, etc. You are not going to have the options you have here.”

Brian Collins, associate professor and chair of the philosophy department, said faculty-led travel seminars are a great way to experience this level of immersion, and may be a more attractive option for some.

Collins led a faculty-led travel seminar to Athens, Greece, last year for his Ancient Greek Philosophy course.

“Traveling internationally and getting to know people and cultures and societies in a much more immersive way helps us be knowledgeable and also more humble citizens of the world,” Collins said.

According to the Cal Lutheran website, the faculty-led programs offered by the CGE give students the opportunity to implement what they have learned immediately following their semester course, as the week-to-month-long trip occurs immediately after the course is finished.

Collins said this application knowledge helps create an even more enriching experience for students who apply for faculty-led study abroad programs.

“Standing in Athens, standing in front of the Acropolis, looking up at the same buildings that these figures and philosophers stood in and looked up at, does something to how our mind grasps and organizes and solidifies our thoughts and ideas,” Collins said.

Collins said he noticed that student engagement in his travel seminar course was extremely high from the start of the semester. When Rafaela Fiore Urizar, professor of Latin American studies and chair of the languages and culture department led a travel seminar to Cartagena, she said she noticed this same change in the level of student engagement from the very beginning of the on-campus course.

“There is a cost-benefit that the student understands. They know that in a few months they are going to put into practice the information they have learned,” Fiore Urizar said. “There is a sense of almost urgency in learning the material, understanding the material really well, and even digging deep and going broader than what we expect in the classroom.”

Fiore Urizar said it is crucial for student learning outcomes to reflect the need for fostering a global perspective. In the spring of 2024, Fiore Urizar and Ryan Medders, professor of communication, will be leading a travel seminar to Argentina, with a focus on understanding Spanish media in Latin America.

“In order to really improve awareness and understanding of Latin American culture, it was a great idea to create a travel seminar where other departments can also use their knowledge and combine it with Latin American issues,” Fiore Urizar said. “Sometimes the problem in other departments is that they do want to think globally, and they do want to understand some of their own course content in other countries, but they lack the cultural knowledge that languages and cultures can provide.”

Ortega also said her experience abroad has continued to shape her perspective in regards to her post-graduate plans.

“I want to teach between kindergarten and second grade,” Ortega said. “Diversity in the classroom is such a huge thing, and a lot of us grew up without that. We didn’t have teachers that looked like us all the time. Even though I am not Korean, I can relate to a child’s culture.”

Fiore Urizar said that empathy and respect for other cultures is key to creating a more inclusive society, both at home and abroad.

“By traveling, you are immersing yourself in a different culture,” Fiore Urizar said. “That creates a sense of humility, because you are the guest.”

Information regarding the spring 2024 faculty-led study abroad programs can be found on the Cal Lutheran Office of Education Abroad website, along with information on how to begin the application process.

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