Fair Hopes to Dispel Myths About Studying Abroad
Galloway, N.J. — Louis Santiago-Conde loves to travel, but he never thought he could afford to study abroad.
But the first-year student’s world view has totally changed after attending the Education Abroad Fair in the Multicultural Center on Jan. 30.
“I learned that financial aid can help, and that definitely made me more excited,” said the esports management major, who wants to go to England where gaming 'is one of the biggest things.'”
“I was just walking by, but once they started talking to me, I got interested right away,” said the Camden native. “It was a very positive and awesome experience.”
Patricia Sagasti Suppes, Stockton’s new Director of Global Engagement, not only wants to expand offerings for Stockton students, but find opportunities for faculty as well, including exchanges and opportunities for joint research.
The idea that studying abroad is too expensive is one of the myths that senior Nikki Troehler would like to dispel. She works in the Office of Global Engagement and is traveling to Greece this summer to finish her Liberal Studies degree with minors in Global Studies and Historical Studies.
“I didn’t know that studying abroad was a thing coming from a first-generation background,” said the Mays Landing native, who has traveled back and forth several times to Greece with her Yaya, or grandmother. “Aside from my personal experiences, I didn’t think this was accessible. I thought it was too expensive. I thought it would delay graduation.
“And all of those myths can be busted.”
Breaking down barriers for students to study abroad is one of the primary missions of Patricia Sagasti Suppes, Stockton’s new Director of Global Engagement. She knows studying abroad can bring huge benefits to students, including important skills such as flexibility and adaptability.
“A student who studies abroad is more likely to graduate on time. Their GPAs tend to go up after studying abroad. They are more likely to stay at their institution. And they are more likely to have a broader array of job opportunities when they graduate with a higher salary,” she said.
But for her, the biggest asset is that students can become more internationally engaged.
“It’s not just that you learn about other cultures, but that you learn to examine your own culture and your own presumptions about the world,” she said. “The world isn’t that big. We know that what happens here is going to affect what happens somewhere else.”
Sagasti Suppes said coming to Stockton offered her a unique opportunity to build something at a university that’s attractive to students abroad because it’s by the beach and near big cities like New York and Philadelphia. She not only wants to expand offerings for students, but find opportunities for faculty as well, including exchanges and opportunities for joint research.
She said her favorite study-abroad programs are when faculty teach all semester about a country and then take students to that country.
Sophomore Kamiya Riley just returned from a study trip to Ghana led by Professor Donnetrice Allison.
“Study abroad can and should be deeper than what you’re capable of experiencing on your own,” Sagasti Suppes said. “You are doing work as part of it, and we all know that human beings learn more when they make greater effort. So, if the students are putting more into it, they are getting more out of it.”
Sophomore Kamiya Riley just returned from a study trip to Ghana led by Professor Donnetrice Allison. The trip was part of a West Africa class led by Allison, and it had such an impact on Riley that she volunteered at the fair to encourage other students to study abroad.
“It was so beautiful there. I didn’t want to leave,” Riley said. “I was really excited to try the new and different foods and hearing their language and seeing the way they lived because it’s so different from ours.”
She said she was worried about getting home sick if she studied abroad for an entire semester, but after the Ghana trip she’s ready to see more of the world.
“I’m most interested in Thailand. It’s just always interested me,” she said. “It just looks so nice and peaceful there. It’s definitely my top place that I want to go next.”
Being more courageous and willing to take some risks is one of the benefits Troehler said she’s gotten by traveling, and she’s excited her final degree classes will be in Greece.
“I think travel has given me tremendous patience, initiative and perspective,” she said. “I wanted to understand more about other cultures and how the world worked. I think having experiences abroad helps develop mutual understanding and empathy that’s really needed to improve humanity in this global, interconnected world.”
— Story by Mark Melhorn, photos by Susan Allen