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In just two years, the number of West Chester University students participating in international programs has more than doubled, in part because study abroad opportunities are now centralized under the University’s Center for International Programs. CIP manages the University’s study abroad experiences in more than 50 countries, from short-term programs to semester and year-long programs.
Peter Loedel, Interim Director/Assistant Vice President for International Programs, works closely with campus leaders, faculty, staff and students to identify new ways WCU can “go global.” He said this year, the largest number of students ever are participating in summer study abroad programs.
Jeff Conradi, CIP project director and the primary campus contact for all study abroad, noted that the number of West Chester students enrolled in study abroad and international programs went from 150 in 2011-12 to 250 in 2012-13and 340 in 2013-14.
West Chester recently joined 240 other U.S. institutions of higher education that have committed to increasing study abroad participation by signing the Institute for International Education (IIE) Generation Study Abroad initiative. IIE’s flagship international initiative is the Fulbright Program.
Some of the University’s longest-running international programs build upon relationships with Guizhou University in China; the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) with offices in West Chester and programs in Peru; and between the Honors College and community service organizations in South Africa. West Chester and Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica in Heredia, Costa Rica, have partnered for winter term study as well as student exchange.
Among WCU’s other programs: nursing in South Africa; special education on Eleuthera in the Bahamas; media or physics in London; language in Argentina; sport science in Germany and Trinidad and Tobago; culture and language in Cuba.
Beginning this fall, semester and year-long exchange programs will allow students to pay WCU tuition while studying overseas, and a student from their host institution studies at WCU. For the full academic year 2014-2015, two Japanese students from Hosei University will study biology at WCU while two West Chester students will study at Hosei in Japan. WCU will also host two students from the University of Kassel in central Germany.
In addition to traditional student exchanges, West Chester has a relationship with the American College of Norway (ACN), which attracts international students who begin their degrees overseas and finish their undergraduate programs at West Chester.
First Experience in a Developing Country
Michael Eisinger has studied abroad in Europe but chose the University’s first international program to Rwanda to study the 20-year anniversary of that country’s genocide. The Holocaust and Genocide Studies graduate student traveled for 19 days with five other WCU students and two faculty members, psychologist Aaron Rundus and historian Brenda Gaydosh.
“It allowed me to study a genocide that few people know about or discuss very often,” Eisinger said, adding that it gave him a new perspective on the course content he’s absorbed as a student here. He found he was “able to interact with the people who experienced [genocide] and the places where major historical events took place … to create a dialog about genocide and how a country rebuilds after such a horrific period. … It is shocking to meet people my own age who remember running for survival.”
Eisinger appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of the trip, which combined history with anthropology, as the students also conducted ethnographic studies of primates in their natural habitats. “I think it made me more compassionate and thoughtful about things I can do in the U.S. to help cause change not only in America, but what I can do to help the less fortunate in places like Rwanda.”