Undergraduate Magazine: Growing Our Global Family
From independent overseas study to cultural resources on campus, international programs add a rich, vibrant dimension to the UA undergraduate experience.
By Linda Hill
About Capstone International
A growing number of students, welcomed to campus every year as part of The University of Alabama family, are enthusiastically joining UA’s global family by taking part in international programs to study, travel and work in different countries around the world.
UA students have educational opportunities in countries from England to Ghana to Australia, and all places in between. Just this year, more than 700 students have ventured across borders to take part in international programs, most with the guidance of the experts at UA’s Capstone International Center (CIC).
International experiences can be challenging, but Dr. Jane Stanfield, associate provost for international education and global outreach, says the students gain a new perspective as well as an appreciation of their own and other cultures.
“Overseas study enables many students, for the first time in their lives, to see their own society somewhat objectively, and begin to understand why they do things and what a driving force culture is in all our lives,” she says.
Capstone International Center
The UA Capstone International Center serves as a campus hub for a wide variety of study-abroad opportunities for students, as well as outreach programs for the international community, and offers educational opportunities for international students at UA.
A division of the UA Office for Academic Affairs, the CIC also assists faculty and staff with their international goals, Stanfield says. Through its academic programs, the CIC also offers year-round and summer opportunities for students to travel with professors or alone to enrich their academic and cultural experience at UA. Students may take courses that qualify them to earn a Global Studies Certificate, open to all majors.
Learning in Another Country
As part of the CIC, Capstone International Academic Programs (CIAP) provides opportunities for UA students who want to earn academic credit abroad. The seven types of academic programs offered through CIAP include faculty-led programs, independent study, reciprocal exchange, community service, graduate research, UA courses that include an overseas component, and internships. The CIC’s Angela Channell serves as director of overseas study.
UA students now have the opportunity to travel to more than 45 countries for a study-abroad experience, Channell says, and more students are coming to UA with the expectation that they will study abroad during their academic career.
“Students want to get that international experience, they want to build their resume, and they are seeking to be globally competent before they leave UA. Many students have discovered that global competency skills also make them more marketable when they graduate,” Channell says.
Aside from the academic and professional benefits, Channell adds that students who study abroad often learn more about themselves. “The experience of living and working in a culture completely different from their own makes students step outside their comfort zone,” she says. “It helps them mature, and they come to know new aspects of themselves as they become more self-confident.”
UA students typically plan a study-abroad trip during their sophomore or junior year, and the experience fits well with their academic structure, Channell adds. The CIC assists students with travel planning, offers scholarships and helps students apply for scholarships offered nationally and internationally.
The CIC reaches out to the community through several programs, including the Japan Culture and Information Center (JCIC), and German Supplementary School. The JCIC serves as a meeting place and clearinghouse for information about Japan and its culture, while the German Supplementary School provides education in German for schoolchildren and youths from German-speaking countries. Students from the United States, Germany and Japan have the opportunity to work with these specialized language programs.
The English Language Institute (ELI), also part of CIC, offers numerous options for students from other countries to come to campus and learn English as a second language. Many of these students stay at UA or in the United States to further their education. ELI programs are offered year-round with visiting students living on campus or with host families.
A Commitment to International Education
International education has a positive impact on the lives of an ever-growing number of UA students. Through the many programs offered by the CIC, students’ hopes of overseas study can become fulfilling educational experiences, Stanfield says.
“We are making dreams come true,” she says. “When a student who has not had a travel experience walks into our office and says, ‘Do you think that I can do this?’, our response is, ‘You just took the first step and already are on your way!’ We help make their wish for an international study experience become a reality.”
For more information about the Capstone International Center and overseas opportunities, call 205/348-5256 or visit www.studyabroad.ua.edu. On campus, visit the CIC in 135 B.B. Comer Hall.
Big Al Goes Global
Recently, UA’s Capstone International Center team has found a novel way to keep up with students as they cross the globe: the Big Al tracking system. The “Where in the World is Big Al?” campaign encourages globetrotting students to snap photos of themselves wearing a CIC T-shirt (with Big Al’s picture on the front) during their travels to share with the campus community. “This idea was created by two of our counselors,” Stanfield says. “Everyone who studies abroad gets a T-shirt and we ask them to take a photo in front of a well-known location in the country where they are studying and send the photo back to us.”