| by Dion Miller

Angela Luedke IEM '21
Angela Luedke, IEM ‘21, Rachel Salay, MPA/IEM ‘20, and Steven Mockler, MPA/IEM ‘21, meeting on Zoom.

Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) provides opportunities for MIIS students to take on internships or jobs that offer little to no salaries through the Immersive Professional Learning (IPL) funding. The financial support provided by IPL is awarded to individual students for credit-bearing or non-credit experiences.

Angela Luedke and UC Riverside’s Goal of Access to Study Abroad

For Angela’s Immersive Professional Learning (IPL) experience, she worked with the Education Abroad Office of, the University of California, Riverside (UCR). URC’s Education Abroad Office purposed a new mandated class for all first-year students, called Crossing Culture, to try to show students the value and skills that could be gained, in all disciplines of learning, by participating in an education abroad experience. Crossing Cultures is a one-credit course over 11 weeks using the A-F scale with the goal of 10% of the student population participating in education abroad by 2027. 

Crossing Culture was born through UCR’s mission to transform lives through discovery, communication, translation, application, and preservation of knowledge to enrich the state’s economic, social, cultural, and environmental future. The 2021 Strategic Plan of UCR also correlates to Crossing Cultureby addressing inclusive excellence, the greater good, social justice, and sustainability. Other goals associated with Crossing Culture are for all UCR students to understand and have access to the resources that the Education Abroad Office offers to students.

“To make it more feasible to study abroad for our students, we should do a better job of what EAP calls ‘academic integration.’ This involves faculty commitment from within departments and programs to create global studies ‘tracks,’ or options, that will contribute to the accumulation of units toward students’ majors.”
— Anonymous Faculty member

Debunking Common Myths Around Education Abroad Experiences

In 2017, UCR conducted a survey to determine why students might not participate in an education abroad experience. In the same year, the Institute of International Education (IIE) conducted a comprehensive research study of 4,565 alumni of education abroad programs throughout the United States on the benefits and the development of hard and soft skills by participating in an education abroad experience. 

In UCR’s 2017 survey of students, they claimed the reasons they haven’t participated in an education abroad experience were vast. The results were 32% citing the cost of an education abroad experience, 14% because of academic issues, 12% because of work or family obligations, and 7% because they were unaware of the opportunities that UCR had to offer. 

IIE’s comprehensive survey revealed that alumni of education abroad programs improved their intercultural skills by 76%, flexibility or adaptability by 75.4%, and self-awareness by 71.8%. Other skills that the alumni determined were improved by an education abroad experience were curiosity (75.4%), confidence (74.1%), and interpersonal skills (56.8%). 

Angela reported that only around 400 students out of UCR’s 26,400 students are actively participating in education abroad opportunities each year. Those 400 students only account for 1.5% of the student population. To reach Crossing Culture’s goal of 10% of the student population participating in education abroad experiences, would require 2,640 students to participate in education abroad experiences each year.  

“It is vital for all UCR students, especially incoming freshmen, to be exposed to information in regards to the study abroad program since they will have more time to do their own research and plan things out, relative to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-year students.”
— Esther Choi, UCEAP National University of Singapore, 2019-2020

Crossing Culture’s Course Objectives and Theories

Crossing Culture’s course objectives are centered around getting rid of education abroad stigmas, building skills to be able to participate in an education abroad experience, and how to cope with returning from home from an education abroad experience. The class highlights these skills in seven different sections. The first four are, setting goals for education abroad experiences, learning the basics to going abroad and logistics, why engage in global learning, and developing the concept of intercultural competencies and what it means. The last three are, develop an awareness of a student’s own cultural values and differences, exploring cultural adaptation through cultural transitions, and the process of re-entering the country after an experience. 

To help implement the change in students’ thoughts and perceptions around education abroad experiences, Crossing Culture will be applying Kathryn Sorrells’ Intercultural Praxis Model and Abes, Jones, and McEwen’s Reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity. The Intercultural Praxis Model highlights a process of critical, reflective thinking and acting to better navigate complex and challenging situations. The Reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity helps visualize students’ capacity to understand and respond to contextual factors to help students during transitional periods.

“It would be great if study abroad were more organically integrated into department curricula, and that the offices of the dean and provost had resources, in form of fellowships, for example, that would be offered to either directly to the students or the programs.”
— Anonymous Faculty member

The Future of Angela

After working with UCR and graduating from MIIS this Spring, Angela obtained a position as a business education abroad coordinator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in August. As a business education abroad coordinator, Angela helps facilitate programs that give students the chance to participate in education abroad programs centered around business. Programs that are going to happen in 2022 are the Rwanda: Global Startup Communities and England: Nebraska at Oxford programs

With such a bright future, everyone at Immersive Learning and MIIS is extremely proud of Angela and looking forward to seeing what other amazing things that she will accomplish. 

For More Information

For information on IPL experiences: Link