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Looking To Double Up On Study Abroad

Published: February 1, 2016

When it comes to the topic of study abroad, Jeet Joshee is clear. He wants to see the number of CSULB students who have that experience double…by 2020.

“President (Jane) Conoley and I have talked about this and we both feel that is a realistic goal,” said Joshee, the Associate Vice President for International Education and Global Engagement who is also the dean for CSULB’s College of Continuing and Professional Education (CCPE). He noted the increase in study abroad participation has already begun.

“From 2013-14 to 2014-15, we had an increase of about 21 percent, so that’s a good growth,” he said, “but we need to keep that trend going and I’m confident we will be successful.”

“We’re serious about dramatically increasing the number of CSULB students who study abroad and are focusing on that goal,” said Conoley. “I’ve heard wonderful stories from current students and alumni about how academically and culturally enriching their international experiences were. I’d like to hear those stories from more students.”

Doubling the number of students who study abroad is not just a CSULB goal, but a nationwide one as well, though the campus’ self-imposed 2020 timeframe may be a bit more ambitious than those at many other institutions. As part of that overall movement, CSULB is one of the institutions which signed up with the Institute of International Education in New York in a call for this generation to get study abroad experience. Currently, the United States annually brings in nearly 900,000 students from overseas, while sending out roughly 250,000. The consensus is that needs to change.

“We are one of the first 100 institutions to sign up for the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad Program and make the pledge to double our study abroad numbers,” added Joshee. “If we all, faculty, staff and students work together, I think it’s attainable. With the increased scholarship money dedicated toward this effort now, I think more students will be able to go, but we have work to do.”

The biggest barrier to expanding study abroad efforts, not surprisingly, seems to be financial, but there have been large strides on campus to help make it more affordable.

“For one reason or another, students don’t study abroad and, looking at our demographics, it seems to be mostly for financial reasons because it does generally cost extra, though not always. That’s why we initiated the scholarship program where the money can help alleviate some of that burden,” said Joshee.

To date, the Associated Students Inc. contributes $50,000 in scholarship funds annually designated for study abroad students, the International Educational and Global Engagement office matches that amount with $50,000 and CCPE’s self-support funds another $50,000—which meant previously there had been $150,000 in scholarship money available for eligible students. More recently, though, the president’s office has added another $50,000 so next year there will be a total of $200,000 available to selected applicants.

Additional funds will also be available through the Nohemi Gonzalez Fund to Support International Study, in honor of the CSULB design student who lost her life in the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. This fund will specifically support Department of Design students looking to study abroad.

Applicants for scholarship money need to be a CSULB student, meet certain grade point average requirements and then be presented to a selection committee. Students will be selected based on their essay, need and academic achievements. For a one-year program, a student can receive up to $2,000, up to $1,000 for a semester and $500 for a short-term study abroad trip.

South Korea is one of the desired destinations for students wanting to study abroad.
South Korea is one of the desired destinations for students wanting to study abroad.

“The ASI-CSULB Study Abroad Scholarship is an enormous new opportunity where students can receive between $500 and $2,000 of help,” said Richard Marcus, professor and director of the Global Studies Institute and the International Studies Program. “With careful planning on how to take financial aid abroad and knowledge of locations with strong comparative power of the dollar, it is often far cheaper to be abroad than in Long Beach.”

“Some programs on campus already require study abroad as part of their program, but there are many more that could do the same, so it could become a requirement for students to gain that international experience and that knowledge,” said Joshee. “In my view, and I may be biased, I think that every student should have an international experience because the world is changing.”

Marcus agrees, noting that there was a time when study abroad was thought of as a luxury, but not anymore.

“There is hardly a job out there that isn’t already globalized,” said Marcus. “Embedded in doubling the number of students studying abroad is an important academic pursuit. Students need to understand how the program fits into their career plans, which global competencies they want to develop, which location, program or program type makes sense given their major and interests, and how to do so without slowing degree progress.

“Once home,” he added, “students have the opportunity to take advantage of their international, language and intercultural skills even beyond global competencies to be more adaptable, apply stronger critical thinking skills, communicate more effectively, and become more engaged citizens.”