The study abroad program at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) offers opportunities that not many students take advantage of.
FAMU established its study abroad program in 1999. However, Myra Walton, FAMU’s International Studies Coordinator, said, “the program did not receive much interest until after the tragic attack of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, which boosted international education.
“The government realized that too few Americans had proficiency in critical languages and knowledge of other cultures throughout the world. As a consequence, there was a shortage of professionals to assume roles in federal agencies related to national security, economic development and international affairs” Walton said.
Studying abroad has been identified as the most effective way for students to learn other languages and study diverse cultures of countries around the world.
Tiffani Brown, a student from FAMU’s School of Business and Industry, is a testament to the benefits of studying abroad. Brown represented FAMU on a semester-long study abroad trip in the 2016 spring semester to Barcelona, Spain.
“The best part about studying abroad was learning so much about myself as an individual. I went to Barcelona expecting to learn the Spanish language and much more about culture, but I ended up learning all of that and much more,” Brown said.
Studying abroad allowed Brown to explore new ventures and forced her into an initially uncomfortable situation that ultimately helped her develop new skills. “I realized that isolation of living abroad without a familiar face or language around is the best push outside of a comfort zone anyone could possibly experience. That push forced me to do a lot of internal reflection and self-assessment” Brown said.
Studying abroad has also been proven to help improve the participant’s professional career. A 2016 “Smart Study” conducted by Ruth Kinloch, an experienced traveler and graduate of Indiana University, confirms that 64 percent of employers think international experience is important for recruitment. The study also concludes that 64 percent of employers say graduates with international background are given greater professional responsibility.
Minorities, and more specifically Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students, are still not embracing this opportunity to study abroad even with the possibilities granted.
“African Americans, Hispanics, and students in the South are under-represented in areas related to international relations and national security,” Walton said. “African Americans represent about three percent of the study abroad population, and most of these are young women.”
Brown was only one of seven black students from a total of 300 people on her study abroad trip, she described.
Students at FAMU like Evens Orinvil rebut that there is not much promotion or information offered towards studying abroad on campus. Orinvil is a senior business administration student who feels that studying abroad is not a priority. When asked about his interest in the program, he replied, “I am not that familiar with studying abroad, so my interest level is not that high.
“Of course I would like to go to a different country if I could, but it would be uncomfortable going to a foreign country; not to mention money being a factor as well” Orinvil continued.
Many students are unaware of the opportunities that studying abroad presents, and do not realize that if you are enrolled at FAMU, then you more than likely can find a way to afford studying in another country.
“Studying abroad is affordable,” Brown claimed. “I paid for it through my financial aid. It cost me the same amount to study in Barcelona for an entire semester as it would staying at FAMU.”
The FAMU study abroad staff acknowledges that many students have not been enlightened about the accessibility of studying abroad.
“We can always do better” Walton expressed.
“However, many students do not receive or read their FAMU INFO announcements. So, we ask faculty to make announcements,” Walton said. “Still, many of our students do not have a global awareness or respect for really developing proficiency of a language. We must improve on that!”
The Office of International Educational and Development remains confident and continues to cultivate new strategies to promote progression within the study abroad program.