Global Connections

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Global ConnectionsCommitment to the best possible study abroad experience is now front and center.

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By John Syme

W ithin hours of September’s New Zealand earthquake, Davidson received a status report about its fivestudents on study-abroad programs there.

“Just want to reassure you that despite a massive earthquake near Christchurch on Saturday, all your five students are alive and well,” the resident director at Arcadia University wrote across the time zones to Jessica Williams, Davidson’s new study abroad coordinator.

Williams’ commitment to the best possible study-abroad experience for every student is front and center, especially now: this year’s campus theme is “Global Connections.”

Keeping tabs on the safety of students abroad is just one of the most visible parts of the job.

“There is a great deal to consider on the front end for a good study-abroad experience, including health and safety as well as cultural immersion and curriculum,” Williams said. “Not all study-abroad programs are the same.”

Williams has become very familiar with a detailed list of some 200 pre-approved programs in 50 countries available to Davidson students. The list is a new approach this year, trimmed to include only the strongest options with as wide a variety as possible. It is a “moving target,” Williams said, one that is evolving based on students’ experiences. And any student with an independent idea for study abroad is welcome to use the resources of her office to research appropriate programs and possibilities, she said.

A Call to Action

But Davidson study abroad faces a severe imbalance in the number of students who are abroad in fall semester versus spring semester. There are 188 students abroad this fall compared with 53 last spring.

The effects of this disproportion ripple throughout campus, from curriculum to residence life, from facilities to human resources.

“We hope to avoid a cap,” said Chris Alexander, McGee Director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Program and associate dean for international programs. “We would like to think we can go to students and let them know about this institutional challenge, and that they will respond in the best interest of the Davidson community now and in the future. We’re a small community, and this affects all of us.”

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