The University of Washington Bothell campus will bid farewell to a record number of students when they depart for this year’s spring study abroad programs. Global Initiatives Program Director Natalia Dyba says 20 students will study abroad, and the increase from one student last spring is a result of several new efforts to engage more students.
“For the first time, we have a specific program for first year and pre-major students,” says Dyba. “Eleven of the students studying abroad this spring are with that new program, including three first year and ten second year students.”
Dyba is speaking of CUSP Thailand: Globalization and the Societies of Southeast Asia, which is already full. The program will be based in Bangkok, Thailand under the direction of James Reinnoldt from the School of Business and Tasha Buttler from the first-year and pre-major program. After three mandatory classes and orientation sessions, the students will travel to Thailand to engage in development projects, cultural exchange activities and visits to key historical and religious sites around Southeast Asia. Program directors expect participants, who will earn 15 credits, to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for that part of the world.
In addition to the new first year and pre-major study abroad program, Dyba says her staff is implementing a plan to help every student have the opportunity to study abroad. The outreach begins with incoming students who are introduced to study abroad during their on-campus orientations. Other highlights of the enhanced Global Initiatives program will be the creation of major-specific advising guidelines highlighting study abroad programs that align with each academic program, and featuring Study Abroad Ambassadors from that major.
The program will also design targeted workshops that provide support for students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. Students will be assisted in the completion of various stages of the process, including the online application and understanding which scholarships best fit the student’s desired study abroad program.
Shauniece Drayton is a senior majoring in community psychology. She studied abroad in Rome as a second year student and last year, traveled to Zambia under a program designed by (CUSP) Director Leslie Ashbaugh. “UW Bothell helped me through the process,” she says. “I needed to know what resources were available, including understanding if I was eligible for certain scholarships.” In the end, Drayton received scholarships that paid for half of her study abroad.
A bigger payoff came during her trip and when she returned. “The trip was centered around peer health education and that’s something that I was already doing on the UW Bothell campus,” says Drayton. “The Zambia experience changed my perspective on humanitarian efforts in other countries. I realized that we can’t help everyone in the way that we think we are. Sometimes, we’re doing more harm than good.” Drayton says she learned to first understand the needs and culture of those she was helping. Back on the UW Bothell campus, she conducts her peer health education outreach a bit differently, by meeting students where they are. The study abroad also opened her eyes to another possibility, “It also helped me shift my perspective with my career goals. I am now thinking of going to graduate school for global health, public health or education.”
Under Dyba’s leadership, UW Bothell has also joined Generation Study Abroad, an initiative with more than 170 institutions nationwide focused on doubling the number of students who study abroad. The goal for UW Bothell is a rather ambitious goal - to increase study abroad participation to 15 percent of all students graduating during academic year 2019/2020. Dyba says she is undaunted by the goal of nearly tripling the rate from academic year 2011/12, “With new and expanded outreach activities, it can happen.”