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Innovative Programming Helps Double Participation in University of St. Thomas Study Abroad Program

Living up to its pledge to Generation Study Abroad and ahead of the 2020 deadline, University of St. Thomas Houston has doubled the number of students who participate in a study abroad experience. Innovative programs for freshmen students and adding new nontraditional destinations helped build the program.Students explore Cuba on a study abroad trip.“The pledge UST made to the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s Generation Study Abroad in 2014 was to double the number of students participating in study abroad by the end of the decade,” said former Study Abroad Director Ulyses Balderas. “That year, we did hit our lowest enrollment with 65 students studying abroad. This past year, due to the efforts of faculty, deans and staff, we reached 131. Therefore, UST will be recognized at the IIE’s Summit on Generation Study Abroad titled “Navigating a Changing World: Building Talent with Global Experience” to be held in Washington D.C. on Oct. 1-3, 2017.”

UST aligned its study abroad programs with IIE’s main objectives in 2014, which included providing first-year students with the opportunity to get international exposure through different programs; increase participation of under-represented groups; and include service learning, social justice and social entrepreneurship opportunities tied to the study abroad experience.

To meet the goal, the University implemented new programs targeting freshmen, added nontraditional destinations and included different programs such as nursing and the sciences. Two new destinations, Rome and Costa Rica, were planned for first-year students. Poland, Nepal, Cuba, Argentina, Israel and Chile were added as nontraditional destinations. Nursing students embarked on one of two study abroad trips to Guatemala and Haiti. In Haiti professors and students practiced global healthcare. This year study abroad nursing students will travel to Kenya.Students participate in a study abroad trip in Cuba.“Being a part of the Generation Study Abroad initiative energized the campus community in regards to global learning and study abroad,” Balderas said. “One of the best programs to stem from our involvement was the First Year Experience Study Abroad program, which allows freshmen an opportunity to experience study abroad and service learning with their fellow students and a supportive mentor team. An unanticipated outcome of this program is, when students return to campus, they become our biggest champions of study abroad.  Since the introduction of the program, study abroad participation has increased across the entire campus, allowing University of St. Thomas to reach their pledge earlier than anticipated.”

To make study abroad affordable, UST offers every student a 50 percent tuition scholarship to study abroad. In addition, students can apply to different scholarships including the UST Study Abroad Scholarship and the Wensjoe Scholarship. Individual programs such as the Taiwan, Ireland, Poland and Israel have additional funding that helps students receive financial support.

Students who study abroad will gain personal, academic and professional competencies and graduate with international experience necessary for success in a globalized world. For more information on UST’s study abroad program, contact Dr. Hans Stockton at 713-525-3536.

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