Newswise — Nationally, 10 to 11 percent of students study away by the time they graduate college. At Augustana University, that number is 52 percent, with more than 230 students expected to study away this academic year. More than 150 of those students are participating in the study abroad program through Augustana's four-week January interim — also known as J-Term — while still earning credits.

International Programs Director Ben Iverson says they are successful largely because of faculty support. The Augustana alumnus says they are the single-biggest influencers on students choosing to study abroad.

Iverson said, "This is the reason that we're five times the national average, which anytime you're in that category is something special and something to celebrate."

Erin Kane, assistant director of international programs, says Augustana has more than 50 faculty who have led a course abroad and about 10 to 15 courses that study away every year — that's around 30 faculty leaders every year who are committed to spending time away from their families.

“It’s really a great opportunity for students to learn about a special topic in a certain area, but it also speaks to the culture of Augustana and how vested faculty are with their students. They want to get to know their students. They want to give them these experiences." — International Programs Assistant Director Erin Kane

Drs. Olivia Lima, associate professor of developmental psychology, and Darcie Rives-East, associate professor of American literature, are just a couple of those faculty heavily invested in giving their students an experience of a lifetime.

The two are currently leading a group of 18 students on an inaugural J-Term program course in New Zealand. They have spent the last five years proposing and planning the course. They even visited the north island in the summer. Lima and Rives-East were able to keep costs down by planning all the logistics themselves rather than going through a travel agent. They say the amount of work is worth it.

"Both Darcie and I did study abroad when we were students and it's really nice to be able to pay that forward now," said Lima.

Rives-East says they will spend a lot of time looking at the Maori culture and the effects of colonization. She says within the last 40 years there's been a major effort to revitalize the Maori language in New Zealand and it has been so successful that it's considered a global model now — a global model they can learn from and maybe even attempt to bring back home.

"I think it's important for students to experience these sorts of things in order to have that empathy in the rest of their lives and being informed citizens, global citizens." — Darcie Rives-East, associate professor of American literature

If the program course is successful the duo hopes to do it again, possibly every two years.

January 2020 Study Abroad Programs Led by AU Faculty

  • UMAIE: "Jewish & Arab Influence in Spain & Morocco," led by Sam Ogdie (Spanish) and Dr. David O'Hara (Religion/Philosophy/Classics)
  • "Leadership in Prof. Nursing in Ecuador," led by Dr. Patricia Waltman (Nursing)
  • "Leadership in Prof. Nursing in Norway," led by Dr. Karla Abbot (Nursing)
  • "Dharma: Religion, Art and Sound in India," led by Dr. John Pennington (Music) and Dr. Lindsay Twa (Art)
  • "From the Gulf Coast to the Florida Keys: Introduction to Marine Biology," led by Dr. Cecelia Miles and Dr. Lisa Baye (Biology)
  • "New Zealand and Cultural Identity," led by Dr. Olivia Lima (Psychology) and Dr. Darcie Rives-East (English)
  • "Brexit — The Great Divorce and Life After the European Union," led by Professor Jason Harris (Business Administration) and Dr. William Swart (Sociology)
  • "Religious Communication: 500+ Years of Reformation in Germany & Norway," led by Dr. Michael Nitz (Communications) and Dr. Cory Conover (History)
  • "The Dominican Republic: Development, Ethics and Baseball," led by Tim Huber (Baseball Coach) and Dr. Stephen Minister (Religion/Philosophy/Classics)

Excuses to not study away are dwindling. The International Programs Office (IPO) has helped many students secure scholarships — most recently the Gilman Scholarship was awarded to two students, Morgan Moe '20 and Mia Phillips '20, traveling to Ecuador and New Zealand, respectively.

Even students with heavy majors and student-athletes with busy training and competition schedules are finding ways to go abroad. For example, more nursing students are traveling abroad with help from the IPO and support from their academic department. Nursing faculty have both led courses abroad themselves, as well as created a window during which students can spend a semester abroad if they so choose — despite the rigorous and prescribed academic requirements. The IPO hopes more sports teams take a deeper look at traveling abroad as well, and follow the lead of Head Baseball Coach Tim Huber. Along with Dr. Stephen Minister, associate professor of philosophy, Huber is leading a group of student athletes on a trip to the Dominican Republic this January.

There are several travel away options based on how independent or immersed you want to be in a program.