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Study Abroad Offers Life-Changing Experiences

International Programs Office offers UI students chance to study in one of 400 universities in 70 countries.

As an undergraduate psychology major at the University of Idaho, Jill Kellogg-Serna didn’t think she was particularly good at learning languages. The range of her international travel didn’t extend beyond Nelson, British Columbia.

But then her Spanish instructor, Irina Kappler-Crookston, caught her imagination.

“Every time we finished a unit in class she would show us photos of Spanish-speaking countries she had traveled to and tell us about the different cultural traditions and events we were seeing in the photos,” Kellogg-Serna said. “I knew I had to go somewhere.”

So in 1996, for a semester of her junior year at UI, Kellogg-Serna traveled to San Sebastian, Spain. The trip gave her new confidence in her language-learning abilities and developed a passion for international travel that Kellogg-Serna was able to turn into a career.

“When I returned from studying abroad, I added Spanish as a major. I knew that I wanted to do something with my life that helped others have the same kinds of experiences I had,” she said.

Today, Kellogg-Serna is the study abroad/exchange director for UI’s International Programs Office (IPO), where she helps connect students with international experiences in more than 400 universities in 70 countries.

For the 2014-15 academic year, more than 250 UI students traveled abroad. UI has joined Generation Study Abroad, a national initiative run by the Institute of International Education. The goal is to double the amount of U.S. students having an international experience in the next five years.

“It is an ambitious goal but we have a good start. We applied and received a grant that will provide six $2,500 scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to go abroad,” Kellogg-Serna said. “Working with a task force of representatives from across campus, we have come up with various ways to get students who don’t normally think about studying abroad to go.”

For the 2015-16 academic year, IPO is planning special outreach programs to first-generation students, incoming freshmen and Pell Grant-eligible students to encourage them to study abroad. The office is also encouraging UI faculty and staff to lead international trips.

A massive roaring waterfall dumps its water into the lush green valley below.
Photo from a student trip to Ecuador.

Global Reach

IPO’s work doesn’t end with encouraging students to go abroad. It includes assisting all international students, faculty and researchers who want to come to UI. The international students at UI represented 78 nations last year; many of those students are enrolled in the American Language and Culture Program (ALCP), which has seen incredible growth in its eight-week, non-degree intensive English language study program. In the past five years, enrollment has increased by 244 percent. The majority of the students who enter the ALCP later matriculate into degree programs at UI, according to Susan Bender, executive director of International Engagement and Programs.

IPO promotes comprehensive internationalization — attracting more international students to campus, encouraging more faculty and staff to go abroad and adapting the curriculum to include global and cultural content. With the increasingly global workforce, knowledge of other cultural perspectives is vital for all students.

“It is essential that we prepare all students, faculty and staff with intercultural competencies so they are more likely to succeed in today’s world,” said Bender.

Kellogg-Serna agreed.

“In today’s global marketplace, most employers value an international experience and are looking for candidates with cross-cultural skills and adaptability,” she said. “Even if you’re not working for a multinational company, chances are that you’ll be serving or working with or for people from other countries.”

Myths of Studying Abroad

Many students have misconceptions about studying abroad, says Jill Kellogg-Serna, the director of Study Abroad. Here are a few common myths, and the truth about them:

UI partners with 400 universities in 70 countries, including 22 partner universities, and is affiliated with four study abroad program providers. This includes English-speaking programs and programs in English-speaking countries.

There are a number of study abroad options that will cost about the same as tuition and fees at UI. There are also many scholarships available to help cover the costs. Students can also use any existing financial aid and scholarships toward their study abroad experience.

The International Programs Office (IPO) has study abroad advisors to help students choose a program that is right for them academically, offers courses that apply toward their degree and will allow them to graduate on time.

IPO can help students find an international experience in any field. Top fields of study include international studies, foreign languages, social sciences, architecture, biology, food and nutrition, exercise science and business management and human resources.

Article by Savannah Tranchell, University Communications and Marketing


University Communications and Marketing

Phone: 208-885-6291

Fax: 208-885-5841


Web: Communications and Marketing

U of I Media Contacts