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MU study abroad program No. 2 in nation

Miami students take advantage of the many study abroad opportunities the university has to offer. Pictured: Cape Town, South Africa

Photo contributed by Miami University Global Initiatives

By Alison Treen, Senior Staff Writer

From sports management in Dublin to social justice in Fiji, Miami University students are globetrotters. Miami offers hundreds of program options for students, ranging from faculty-led to exchanges to partnering with outside programs. In fact, this J-term alone, students can choose to study abroad from programs that span over 30 different countries.

Miami's expansive study abroad options helped establish the university as No. 2 among all national public universities by the Institute of International Education (IIE). The IIE releases its Open Doors Report on students studying abroad annually; this data is from the 2012-13 school year.

The IIE creates its ranking by dividing the number of undergraduate students studying abroad to the number of undergraduate degrees that the university offers. For Miami, this number came out to 37.4 percent estimated participation in study abroad.

Melanie Ziegler, chief program adviser of International Studies, said she has seen Miami's focus on studying abroad grow over time.

"We've always had our flagship [Luxembourg]," she said. "That was always an incredible thing for Miami to have. I think it's really grown around that and from that in many ways."

According to Karla Guinigundo, Associate Director of Global Initiatives, Miami's Luxembourg campus is the university's largest single destination; last year 258 students attended the European campus, and the target amount of students is around 120 per semester.

A majority of students who choose to go elsewhere do so through faculty-led programs - 73 percent of students studying abroad last year did so.

Guinigundo attributed the success of the programs to the value of Miami's faculty.

"The faculty-led piece has grown considerably over the past few years; it's an area we're looking to grow even further," she said.

Kim Suellau, director of the Farmer School of Business' (FSB) International Programs, agreed that faculty is an essential part of Miami's study abroad experiences.

Suellau noted the recent FSB faculty-led program to Australia, which was so popular that the admission spots were increased. Last winter, only 20 students were allowed to go on the trip, but this year the roster has doubled.

"They've flown off the shelf," Suellau said of the FSB faculty-led programs.

Suellau added that FSB programs are open to all students, regardless of their majors; however, some programs do require prerequisites.

While summer is the most common time for students to study abroad, Guinigundo predicted the recent addition of J-term would show an increase in the number of students who study abroad. Since the IEE report analyzes criteria one year behind, the current report detailing the 2012-2013 school year does not take J-term into account.

In addition to J-term, Miami has taken other proactive steps to promote its study abroad options.

"We have information sessions to let students know of opportunities, individual advising, study abroad 101, scholarships," Guinigundo said. "We work with faculty to promote and assist their programs, and we have one adviser who acts as a liaison between Miami and non-Miami programs."

Ziegler also acknowledged the Global Perspectives requirement of the Miami Plan as a way Miami has pushed its study abroad focus forward.

"We want to combat the sense that some people have that [study abroad] is just vacation," she said.

Whether students are looking to study abroad in more popular destinations like the U.K. or Italy, or less frequented locations like East Timor or Kosovo, Guinigundo offered advice.

"Start early," she said. "It takes a while to find a program that's a good fit for you."

Guinigundo added that the extra time would also help with researching, funding and submitting scholarship applications.

While the many options and processes of studying abroad may seem daunting, Guinigundo believes that it is worth it.

"Studying abroad changes your outlook on everything. It changes you as a person. I think it's one of the most important things a student can do," she said.

As a leader of the Cuba In Transition J-term program, Ziegler said the opportunity brings a wealth of benefits to students and faculty alike.

"You're teaching the next generation, but you're not force-feeding them," Ziegler said. "The joy from it is amazing. [Studying abroad] is a window to the world that you can't possibly experience any other way. I've never had a student regret studying abroad."