International Education Week and study abroad

Let’s talk global today!  Next week (November 13-17) there are a number of great events coming up as part of International Education Week (IEW). Of particular note, there is a wonderful keynote speech by Mr. Ishmael Beah; he will speak on Monday November 13th at 7 pm in Wait Chapel. Ishmael is a former child soldier from Sierra Leone who has overcome many boundaries to become a New York Times best selling author and advocate for children worldwide.  From the IEW website:

Ishmael Beah, born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, is the New York Times best-selling author of A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier and Radiance of Tomorrow, A Novel both published by Farrar Straus & Giroux.

His Memoir has been published in over 40 languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category for 2007. TIME Magazine named the book as one of the “Top 10 Nonfiction books of 2007,” ranking at number 3. His novel written with the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable is a powerful book about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times. Already available in several foreign languages, the New York Times finds in his writing an “allegorical richness” and a “remarkable humanity to his [Beah’s] characters”.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, International Herald Tribune, Globe & Mail, Rutgers University Press, Vespertine Press, LIT, The Guardian, Parabola magazines and numerous academic journals.

That speech would be a wonderful chance for your Deacs to hear about the lived experience of someone from a different part of the world and a different upbringing. There are other activities all next week and they can be seen by clicking on the various dates at the bottom of the IEW web page or see this PDF of activities here: IEW-Schedule.

Another reason to talk global is because many current sophomores are starting to think about applying to study abroad in their junior year. There is a comprehensive web site from the Global Programs and Studies (GPS) office to help students get started, as well as study abroad advisers to work directly with students.  The point I want to raise is about the timing of going abroad, and helping your Deacs think through those possibilities.

The trend at Wake seems to be that many more students go abroad in the fall of their junior year (as opposed to the spring or summer). For those who are longtime Daily Deac-ers, you know I am fond of talking about pros and cons of decisions.  And sometimes in life, you have to pick one thing from Column A or Column B but not both. Understanding what you give and what you might give up with a decision can be important.

This impacts study abroad because many students want to go abroad in the fall AND are also very particular about where they want to live and with whom when they return. And those two things do not always coincide.

Some of the perceived pros of going abroad fall of junior year are: more of your friends will be there at the same time; there are seasonal celebrations like Oktoberfest in Germany or the wine harvest in France; you will be home in time for fraternity and sorority recruitment; and depending on where you go, you might miss the worst of winter.

Some of the perceived cons of going abroad fall of your junior year is that you miss football season/tailgating and soccer games at Spry. There are campus traditions you’d miss: Project Pumpkin, Hit the Bricks, Lighting of the Quad, and Lovefeast. But the biggest con of going abroad the fall of your junior year is that – as I cheekily tell my advisees – there is no magic, unicorn residence hall that sits empty all fall waiting for juniors to return from abroad. So when our fall-abroad juniors come back to campus, they will need to fill in the available beds vacated by students who decide to do spring abroad, or transfer, take a medical leave. etc.  Where the rubber meets the road is that you have a pretty good chance of moving in to a room with someone you may not know, and in a res hall that might not be your first choice.

So here is the decision tree:

– if you are very particular about which res hall you are in and which roommate you have, you should think about going abroad in the spring. This will allow you maximum options in picking your roommate of choice and the residence hall of your choice in the fall semester given your lottery number and available space, then you leave in the spring.  Going abroad in the summer would accomplish that same thing.

– if on the other hand your top priority is to go abroad with the largest group of your friends and you are willing to be flexible and live in a room/with a roommate that might not have been your first choice, going abroad in the fall can be the right answer for you.

And before our P’19s with Deacs abroad this fall feel panicky about their return, remember this: your Deacs were flexible enough to go to a foreign country for a whole semester. They will be able to be flexible enough to live with someone they might not know, or in a different residence hall than their other friends 🙂


Categories: study abroad