SFA officials hope to encourage more students to study abroad

International students in an SFA grammar class (Source: KTRE Staff)
International students in an SFA grammar class (Source: KTRE Staff)
SFA's Office of International Programs (Source: KTRE Staff)
SFA's Office of International Programs (Source: KTRE Staff)
Study abroad sign (Source: KTRE Staff)
Study abroad sign (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - There's a concern among educators that far too many college graduates lack an educational experience abroad. This isn't good in this day of globalization.

At Stephen F. Austin State University there's a bold commitment to keeping students in touch with the world.

Environmental science graduate student Sierra Gibbons has her theory why students don't study abroad.

"I think we get into our comfort zone where we live," Gibbons said.

Last summer adventure led Sierra to Argentina and Brazil. Now she's on her way to Sweden, the newest study abroad collaboration for the College of Forestry and Agriculture.

"They have a much different forest up there and it's more of a technical school so you get to do a lot more of the driving of the giant trucks and logging, so it's going to be a lot of fun seeing what they do up there," Gibbons said.

Yet few students seek out study abroad programs. It's an ongoing challenge for SFA's Office of International Programs, said its director, Heather Catton.

"It's not cheap to study abroad, but the thing is to convince people it really is an investment in their education, their future," Catton said.

SFA has joined the Institute of International Education's Generation Study Abroad Initiative. The link provides innovative learning opportunities and scholarships. It gives SFA the confidence to set a lofty goal.

"Right now we're at about 1 percent of students who study abroad. About 120 a year. We wanted to triple that," Catton said. "Get 3 percent of our students studying abroad."

The initiative could enhance the university's foreign student program. Jordan, Congo, and Saudi Arabia are represented in this English grammar class.

Gul Rehan from Pakistan is wrapping up a semester at SFA. She will take home this impression of East Texas.

"Nacogdoches is a small city in Texas, but the people and the students, they're so cooperating," Rehan said. "They're friendly, they're kind, nice, welcoming, loving and they're hardworking."

Now the world awaits American students to come back from somewhere with their view of study abroad.

The SFA Office of International Programs is sponsoring a program this weekend at the Judy McDonald Public Library in Nacogdoches. You'll have an opportunity to learn about Tunisian life and even taste authentic Tunisian dishes. The program is Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

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