Seminar allows students to explore learning abroad opportunities
At UH, the First Year Residential Experience and Second Year Residential Experience programs aim to ease students’ transitions into campus life by bringing various university resources into the lobbies of on-campus housing.
On Tuesday, SYRE students are invited to attend The World as a Classroom: Learning Abroad Opportunities at UH, a seminar focusing on the importance of learning abroad. Located in the Quadrangle’s study lounge from 6 to 7:30 p.m., this learning abroad seminar is intended for students involved in the SYRE inclusion program, but all UH students are welcome.
Associate professor of higher education and SYRE Faculty-in-Residence Lyle McKinney focuses primarily on the second-year experience and he hopes SYRE will increase engagement and success among students who live in on-campus housing.
“We are designing these programs to provide services to students that help them be more successful at college,” McKinney said. “So we bring events and resources into the residence halls for students. We host events based on things that we know are proven effective on topics that we know first and second year students are dealing with as they transition into college.”
McKinney said these topics can include whether students are in the right major, whether they’re optimizing study habits or how to navigate campus. For next week, the focus of SYRE’s event is the importance of learning abroad.
According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of U.S. students learning abroad between 1996 and 2011 has more than doubled, rising from 99,448 students in 1996 to 273,996 students learning abroad in 2011.
UH alone has seen a substantial increase in learning abroad. Vice Provost for Global Strategies and Studies Jaime Ortiz said UH is seeing a “phenomenal growth” in students participation in learning abroad, attributing this spike to an increase in scholarship availability, the Passport for Coogs initiative, tuition waivers from the Office of the Provost and campus outreach.
“In 2014, Learning Abroad joined the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative by pledging to double UH student participation in learning abroad programs by the year 2020,” Ortiz said. “We have seen an 80 percent increase this past year alone, nearly reaching our goal four years ahead of schedule.”
Hispanic studies professor and SYRE faculty member Guillermo De Los Reyes is leading the event with help from the Learning Abroad office at UH. De Los Reyes has not only been involved with SYRE since its beginning, but has been traveling abroad with students for 10 years.
“An important component for college students should be learning abroad,” De Los Reyes said. “Learning abroad opens not only the student’s knowledge on the subject matter about a language, history or politics, but also opens their minds to different worlds and cultures, different experiences. Being an eyewitness is key and gives you credibility.”
McKinney said SYRE has also noticed a steady increase in student participation at the events.
“I’d say it’s probably an increase in awareness of these events and what services they provide,” McKinney said. “What we’ve seen is the same students who come at the beginning of the semester come until the end of the semester, because they find the connections they make with other students and faculty members, and also what they learn from the event, is really helping them be successful academically.”
De Los Reyes said as long as a student is financially able and has a 2.5 GPA, they are eligible to apply for study abroad. The Learning Abroad Program even offers scholarships to students; however, according to the website, the deadline for the fall, winter and spring 2016 semesters have passed.
For today’s event, students are encouraged to dress casually and enjoy themselves. The meeting is informal, lasts approximately an hour and food will be provided.
“We work with students who are second year students, and many of them are transfer students,” De Los Reyes said. “I think that the best part about working with them is that you see how you can make a difference, how you can impact the students. Because statistics show that transfer students have more challenges when they transfer to a different institution, so seeing that we’re doing these programs for their benefits gives me a lot of satisfaction.”