Brightly colored tables accessorized with bouquets of red balloons lined the Armstrong Pavilions. Large posters gleaming with pictures of travel destinations were propped against the walls. Students with red bags dangling from their arms browsed the tables showcasing different study abroad program opportunities.
The Study Abroad Fair on Monday, Sept. 24, advertised programs across disciplines and ranging in locations from Australia to England.
As most current and prospective students know, Miami has placed high priority on study abroad programs for nearly 40 years. According to the 2017 Open Doors Report, Miami ranked 25th in the nation for number of students studying abroad.
Kevin Fitzgerald, lead Miami study abroad advisor, describes the program as a stool with three legs: the Luxemburg program, faculty-led trips (which comprise about 75 percent) and transfer credit programs (student exchange/partner universities). He says in a typical year, about 2,500 students study abroad. Oct. 1 marked the deadline for winter and spring trips.
New programs are introduced all the time. A Disney study abroad program designed for those interested in art, graphic design and marketing took its first trip last summer. The program includes a couple weeks of online work and time spent in the Disney parks. Program leader Dennis Cheatham, assistant professor of communication design, said students spent time learning how the "Imagineers design the magic" and then explore how the Disney parks utilize elements like usability and accessibility for guests. They also explore service design, interaction design and the use of sound and smell to craft realistic experiences.
Cheatham said the best part for him was riding the Haunted Mansion and learning exactly how the ride is designed and operates.
"Miami is always innovating and trying to keep up with both student interest and also topics of the day," Fitzgerald said.
Over 150 faculty-led programs are available to students, and with such a large amount of options, the numbers of people who participate in them are going down slightly, simply because it's difficult to fill up every program. Student interest in studying abroad, however, is increasing.
With the continual interest in studying abroad, certain programs have had to heighten selectivity processes -- taking things like GPA, seniority or first-come-first-serve into account -- simply because they can't take everyone.
Sometimes, however, the opposite occurs and programs have to be canceled.
"It's sad because there's always a lot of work that goes into organizing things and having the whole itinerary scheduled," Fitzgerald said.
Typically, he said, a program will be canceled if less than 10 students sign up, but this depends on the program's distributive costs.
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The Luxembourg program, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, is one of the more popular locations. It's well-known among current and potential students, as Miami's sister campus that offers transfer-credit convenience.
Sophomore business major Kyle McClure is traveling to Luxembourg this spring and is currently taking an offered study abroad class.
"I've never been outside the country before, and I figured the class could help me know what to expect and how to approach my experience," McClure said.
Classes like these illustrate only one of several different preparation opportunities offered to interested students.
Considering how involved a process planning a study abroad trip is, program leaders and study abroad advisors provide lots of valuable insight and advice throughout the entire process.
For sophomore Russell Hamm, his international studies major requires a semester abroad, so he chose to go to Spain next semester. The idea of learning a language in the actual country is quite appealing to many students, whether it's required for the major or not.
"I really want to work on my language skills in a more realistic setting than just the classroom," Hamm said. "I really think that being immersed in Spain will achieve that and really bolster my passion for language studies and international issues."
Andrea Righi, assistant professor of Italian, leads a program to Italy which provides a full immersion experience of food, culture and language. Like similar programs, there is no language prerequisite Instead, students take entry-level Italian classes as part of the curriculum.
"We want [Miami students] to come out of here with an intercultural confidence, intercultural skills," Righi said. "They have to have a view of other cultures...so that when they come back here they can see things in a different light and maybe advance our society in different ways and think outside the box."
Students can set up individual appointments through the Study Abroad office in MacMillan Hall to learn more about programs and answer any other questions.