SPEA – in Bloomington and Abroad!

As a graduate assistant with the Office of Overseas Study, I get to spend my work hours dreaming of incredible places to visit, study, and research. I work mostly with marketing, managing student applications, and occasionally helping professors with curriculum development and travel plans, and I have seen some pretty incredible study abroad opportunities come through our office in the last couple of months—globalization in Berlin, Risk Management in London, Sustainability in Vietnam, policy Analysis in Pamplona… and the list goes on!

One thing that I didn’t know about SPEA when I came in as a first year MPA was the myriad of opportunities available to students who want to study and research abroad while working towards their degree. Graduate students have the freedom to travel abroad for a semester or a summer, receiving academic SPEA credit through Overseas Studies. You can also choose to work with SPEA Career Services to find an internship abroad during the summer months. That’s what I did last summer to fulfill my experiential credits—I was able to partner with a community development organization called Soluciones Comunitarias in Southern Ecuador, and I spent May-August training rural women to own and operate small businesses in their local communities.

I’m learning more and more, through my academic career and my position with the Office of Overseas Education, that study abroad is a vital component in understanding where we fit in the global context. Working and studying abroad, even for a short period of time, can help to cultivate a spirit of global citizenship that makes you better at achieving all of your career goals—whether it be management, policy analysis, environmental research, or public planning. From a personal standpoint, working and studying abroad in Europe and Latin America have contributed to my experiential education in a way that classroom lectures, reading, and theory never have. Don’t get me wrong; these are all vital aspects of professional development. But there’s just something about getting out there, and seeing the world through a different lens, that
allows you to shift your perspective and grow in a much larger, experiential context.

That is precisely why I have been working with two faculty members and a group of student leaders to create a new, experiential service-learning program for SPEA graduate students in Kenya. We are calling the program: ACCT International—Advancing Community, Collaboration, and Training. Summer 2012 will be our first pilot launch of the program, and we will be sending 18 students to Western Kenya for a four-week collaborative workshop with Kenyan NGOs, Businesses, and Government Organizations. Following the workshop, SPEA student will be paired with a partner organization for a six-week internship, where they will live with a host family, and work in their community to complete a deliverable. We have designed the curriculum and
schedule of this program to help students cultivate their experiential learning in a global context. It is also the first service-learning study abroad program that SPEA has offered to graduate students, and I am very excited to move forward with the application process and help prepare my fellow students for this incredible Kenyan experience.

As I’m sure you can tell, I love talking about study abroad opportunities and sharing my own experiences from work and research abroad. If you are interested in learning more about any of the programs I’ve talked about, I encourage you to check out the SPEA Abroad website.

And if you have any questions about our new ACCT International program in Kenya, please feel free to send me an email at sjhollis@indiana.edu. I would be more than happy to talk with your about opportunities for incoming students, as well as viable student leadership positions in overseas education. Thanks for checking out this blog post!

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