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Making the Most of Your Diversity Abroad Conference Experience

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 13, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

Attending conferences can, on the surface, seem like time that you could be spending doing more productive activities in the office. More than just an opportunity to present about your work or connect with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while, conferences can also serve as incubators for new ideas and spaces for like-minded individuals to motivate and energize each other to make change happen on their campus.

The Diversity Abroad Conference is a venue that not only allows higher education professionals to connect with their colleagues in different offices and campuses, it’s a space for people to discuss ideas that often have a way of making it to the sidelines during regular operating hours. Let’s face it, diversity and inclusion in international education or international education in diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t often at the center of the agenda for most offices. In many cases, the convergence of these topics happens only a handful of times throughout the academic year. For this reason (among others) we are excited that for 2.5 days we’ll get to bring these topics to the center of our focus and create actionable plans for how we can all enhance diversity and inclusion efforts in international education.

We’ve pulled together a short list (here’s a more comprehensive list if you’re interested) of ways that can help ensure you gain the most from these 2.5 days of intense dialogue, interactive sessions, and thought-provoking discussion.

Tags:  Diversity Abroad Conference  professional skills 

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Faith Abroad: Does it Matter?

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Saturday, February 28, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

Religion & Study Abroad

Religion isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when we think about how to prepare students to study abroad; however, open pre-departure discussions about religion can greatly enrich a student’s in-country experience. A recent Gallup Poll confirms that a majority of US Americans -- at least nominally -- believe that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems. Despite the prevalence of various religious traditions throughout the United States, we tend to value individualism and privacy in this country, especially as it concerns beliefs and practices perceived to be very personal, like religion. Furthermore, our political preference for the separation of church and state, the veneration of personal liberty, and a focus on political correctness have profoundly influenced our perceptions of religion. In many other places around the world, however, religion is not perceived to be a taboo topic of conversation nor a strictly personal decision.

As students travel for study abroad, especially to places where religion is a fundamental part of daily life, it will be necessary to navigate the local customs while also honoring a student’s own personal belief system. Students from non-religious (or only nominally religious) backgrounds will benefit from a pre-departure discussion on how faith and religion are expressed in the host country. This could include a discussion of how to answer questions while in-country regarding one’s religious background (or lack thereof) as some host-country nationals may be surprised to meet someone without a strong association with religion. What are polite and culturally-appropriate ways to respond to these questions? Would debate about religion be well-received in the host country? Similarly, study abroad students with strong religious beliefs will want to consider what options are available to practice their religion in-country. How will these religious practices be interpreted in the host country? Is it safe to speak openly about these religious practices in the host country?

Owen Willis’ 2012 article published in the Journal of Global Citizenship and Equity Education entitled The Study Abroad Experience: Where Does Religion Fit?, deals directly with the intersection of religion and study abroad. Willis provides a thoughtful perspective from a development background on this important, albeit infrequently discussed, topic. At the end of the article, Willis focuses on specific pedagogical approaches that can be utilized to prepare study abroad students to fully engage with the complexities of religion in another country. Regardless of the destination, religion is often an influential component of a study abroad experience and can greatly impact the quality of a student’s educational pursuit.

Tags:  Education Abroad Diversity  religion  Study Abroad 

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High School Education Abroad and the Gap Year

Posted By Trixie Cordova, Saturday, February 7, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In my role as the Student Outreach Coordinator at Diversity Abroad, I travel to schools across the U.S., encouraging college students to go abroad. Whether it’s to study, intern, teach or attend graduate school, experiencing life in another country is always an investment in one’s future, regardless of the chosen career path in mind.

Often times, I find myself speaking with students who are exploring study abroad for the first time. As with anything new, the concept of moving to another country, whether for a summer or a year, can be pretty daunting. At the very least, I find that relating the idea of moving away from home to go to college and living on campus, can produce similar fears or hesitancies -- Will I make new friends? How will I get around? Will I have to deal with racism or stereotypes, and how will I respond to those interactions?

I’m most excited in my job when I get to engage with these students because their curiosity and interest are extremely genuine, open and honest. Exploring the field of study abroad isn’t something every student will entertain, so getting the opportunity to introduce students to the idea of going abroad, and building a globally-minded future is why I love what I do.

At the same time, I recognize how much more valuable this conversation COULD be -- were it to be held at the high school level. How many students are we failing to reach and impact because they didn’t have access to a college education, and therefore a space where they can explore these options and ask questions?

For this reason, I’m very passionate about increasing outreach efforts aimed at high school students. So much so that I focused my master’s thesis on what I called “Critical Study Abroad”. I advocated for increased global opportunities for high school youth, specifically those that are from the communities we identify as being underrepresented in study abroad: students of racial/ethnic minorities, first generation students, LGBTQ students, students with disabilities, students with high financial need, etc. However, I didn’t advocate for just ANY global experience. Because my degree in International Educational Development includes a concentration in Peace Education, I argued for the incorporation of Peace Education concepts into the global experience. Basically, this means encouraging high school students NOT to fall into any “voluntourism” pitfalls, but to make meaningful connections with local communities, and to develop a globally mindful relationship with local people and resources to create a truly transformative experience for both themselves and the host community.

There are many factors that would impact a students’ desire and preparedness level for uprooting themselves from what is comfortable and familiar, to picking up and moving to another part of the world for any length of time. However, I believe that the earlier students are encouraged to explore global opportunities, the sooner they will develop a more worldly perspective and recognize how their role as global citizens will make a positive impact on the future. Check out the High School Study Abroad & GAP Year Guides as well as other High School Study Abroad Programs on the new DiversityAbroad.com.

Tags:  education abroad  Study Abroad 

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Pushing the Envelope - Diversity Abroad Initiatives for 2015

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Friday, January 16, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back in 1989, director Robert Zemeckis and the rest of the filmmakers for Back to the Future II made some pretty exciting predictions about what life would be like in 2015. While hoverboards and flying cars have yet to materialize as modes of transportation, 2015 is still set to be an exciting year, especially for those of us in international education. For Diversity Abroad, 2015 marks eight years of operation, and it promises to be a year with new opportunities for engagement, enhanced resources for students and professionals, and broader initiatives that will impact diversity and inclusion efforts in international education and exchange.

Here are a few developments to look out for from Diversity Abroad that will impact access, inclusion, and diversity in international education.

1. Launch of new DiversityAbroad.com

On January 20th, Diversity Abroad will relaunch its flagship website, DiversityAbroad.com. The new site has been designed and developed with one goal, “Preparing the Next Generation of Global Leaders.” Through articles, student stories, resources guides, online events, and exclusive scholarships, DiversityAbroad.com gives students and parents from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds the tools to make meaningful international education experience a reality. DiversityAbroad.com has been and will continue to be the most robust free online rescouce for connecting students and recent graduates to international study, intern, graduate, and career opportunities. Visit DiversityAbroad.com on January 20th to learn how our new resources can help more of your students go abroad

2. Release of version 1.0 of the A.I.D. Roadmap

In February 2015 the Diversity Abroad Network will officially roll out version 1.0 of the Access, Inclusion, and Diversity in International Education (A.I.D.) Roadmap, the most comprehensive evaluation and benchmarking tool targeting access, inclusion, and diversity in international education. After nearly two years of development, this innovative resource will give institutions and organizations clear guidance on the types of practices that should be employed to increase participation and better serve the needs of diverse and underrepresented students in education abroad. Learn more about the A.I.D Roadmap.

3. Inaugural Global Student Leadership Summit

On March 22 - 24, 2015, while hundreds of professionals are gather for the 3rd Annual Diversity Abroad Conference, a group of exceptional students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, all with international experience, will gather in New Orleans for the inaugural Global Student Leadership Summit. Students from around the country will participate in hands-on trainings and student leadership sessions, identify and share emerging trends in international education, engage in critical dialogue, stay abreast of relevant and new resources, establish and maintain relationships with like-minded student leaders, and connect with higher education professionals and professionals from various public and private institutions and organizations. Learn more about how to nominate your student for the Global Student Leadership Summit.

4. Expanding the pipeline - K-12 Engagement

It’s no secret, the earlier students are exposed to global opportunities, the more likely they are to participate in them. While Diversity Abroad has always had resources for high school students, in 2015 and going forward direct outreach to high school students and their parents, as well as providing training and resources to K-12 educators, will be an essential aspect of our work.

5. New Projects & Services

2015 would not be complete without Diversity Abroad rolling out new services to its members and higher education community. What are they? You’ll have to wait and see, but what I can say is that we will continue to develop and fund new and innovative ways for students to connect to international opportunities. We will also expand opportunities for international, diversity, and other professionals to connect and have the resources to serve all of their students.

2015 will be a busy year for Diversity Abroad and everyone committed to increasing access and promoting diversity and inclusion in international education. We’re looking forward to partnering with you and your colleagues as we continue to lead the field of international education toward diversity and inclusive excellence. Do you have questions or suggestions for us? Interested in getting involved in these efforts? Send us a message and let us know your thoughts on access, inclusion, and diversity in international education: 

Tags:  AID Roadmap  Education Abroad Diversity  Outreach 

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Report Highlights Challenges HBCUs Face in Their Internationalization Efforts

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2016
A new report from the American Council on Education published this week highlights the challenges that HBCUs face in their internationalization efforts.
A link to the full report is included below as well as a summary from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

While many of these challenges may not be new, the report highlights some interesting and good work being done at the seven institutions that participated. 

This is also a good reminder that HBCUs and minority serving institutions play a valuable role in the diversification of education abroad activities because they serve a large portion of racial/ethnic minority students enrolled in higher education (for a quick snapshot of these numbers you can read the recent report from Excelencia in Education and UNCF titled "Black + Brown: Institutions of Higher Education").
For those of you working in and with the HBCU community, please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.

Report Links:

Tags:  Education Abroad Diversity  global education  HBCU  HSI  research 

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