Social and cross-cultural awareness: Creating global citizens
By the time she graduates in August 2010, Emily Burchfield will have spent a year and a half of her undergraduate studies in Europe. And she'll have earned dual degrees in economics, one from Clemson and the other from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, just outside of Brussels.
"I have found that I learn through experience," she says. "By placing myself in the midst of a difficult and challenging situation, I learn more about myself and the world."
Burchfield is one of a growing number of Clemson students who spend some portion of their undergraduate years in another country. Study abroad experiences can range from a faculty-led excursion during spring break to a full semester of studies at another university — and there are opportunities for students in every academic major.
"Today's graduates need that intercultural competency," says Teresa Wise, executive director of international programs. "Study abroad gives them opportunities to develop their leadership skills, their communication skills and their social awareness."
Burchfield's studies in Europe are only part of her international experience. She has traveled to India twice with the ICHEC India Housing Project, a summer service-learning collaboration of Clemson's Brussels Center and the Institut Catholique des Hautes Études Commerciales (ICHEC) Brussels Management School.
"Every day spent in India was life-changing; my senses were constantly heightened and my mind was always open," she wrote of that experience. After living in an Indian village and working shoulder-to-shoulder with American and Belgian students to build houses for the poor, she returned for more the following summer.
"I was able to learn about two very different cultures, that of Belgium and India," she wrote. "It engaged me in ways I never thought possible."
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In 2008, as a Duckenfield Scholar — a program of Clemson's Calhoun Honors College — she spent a summer at Oxford University in England studying global climate change with Oxford physical geography Professor Kenneth Addison.
Burchfield, who believes study-abroad experiences are "powerful tools for peace and mutual understanding," is weighing her options for graduate studies as she completes her two undergraduate degrees in economics. "The programs I am currently looking at mix economics, sustainable development, and environmental science and policy," she says.
Burchfield's undergraduate travels may be more extensive than most, but the trend is definitely up.
During the 2008-09 academic year, 834 students participated in study abroad, up from 607 in 2005-06, Wise says. The goal is to double that number by 2015, and that means expanding an already broad array of options available to students. The Clemson Abroad 2010 brochure lists 44 programs scheduled for the spring and summer, from a course on sustainable development in Australia to a study of European Post-Conflict Societies in Serbia and Montenegro.
The cost of study abroad is not as great as some might think, Wise says. Students in exchange programs pay tuition and fees equal to Clemson's in-state costs — even out-of-state students, who normally pay higher tuition. Scholarships and other financial aid are available for some programs.
"Other than the airfare, the cost of study abroad is roughly comparable to being on campus," Wise says. "The costs are extremely reasonable."
While these Clemson students are abroad, about 1,000 international students are on the Clemson campus, says David Grigsby, senior vice provost for international affairs. For 2008, Clemson's international students came from 88 countries, the top five being India, China, the Republic of Korea, Germany and Turkey.
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