US sector celebrates Study Abroad Day
Study Abroad Day is celebrated on the last Monday in February each year. The idea was created in 2020 by Erin Kunert and Jessica Mulvihill after conversations they had while serving on a study abroad scholarship committee together.
The aim of Study Abroad Day is to raise awareness about the deep impact that study abroad has on participants, such as increased awareness of diversity in cultures and perspectives and increased intercultural competence.
Both study abroad alumnae themselves, Kunert is the former director of the Office of Global Education at Valparaiso University and Mulvihill is the director of education abroad at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. As there are thousands of national and international days celebrating a wide variety of foods, traditions, and phenomena, Kunert and Mulvihill decided to harness the collective power of their colleagues at NAFSA and SECUSS-L, to make Study Abroad Day a recognised event across the sector.
Kunert likens being part of society as being in a “group project” and believes study abroad prepares people to be more productive group members. The pair selected February for recognition of Study Abroad Day so as to “complement and not compete” with International Education Week in November and to move the conversation away from recruitment to focus more on student outcomes.
By participating in study abroad, “you will be rewarded exponentially and gain empathy for peoples of another country and their circumstances”, Sarita Rai, director of the study abroad center at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, shared with The PIE News. “This is how you work towards achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Rai added.
From coast to coast, universities in the US have special events planned, from social media campaigns, to virtual seminars, to live events. Seattle University’s Education Abroad Office posted vignettes of the EA experiences of their faculty and staff.
“This is how you work towards achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion”
At the University of North Florida, Study Abroad Day events span the entire week, beginning with an internationally-themed craft fair, to a Greek Carnival, and culminating with an international dinner/dance.
At the Penn Global office at the University of Pennsylvania, staff are holding a pop-up session to inform students of the process and deadlines for studying abroad. They will be answering questions and giving away “Penn Global swag”. Texas Tech University’s Office of International Affairs has eight events planned for the day, from Zoom informational sessions, to meet and greets with SA alumni, to an Instagram photo contest, and workshops on how to fund SA programs.
For more ideas on how to celebrate, promote, and advocate for study abroad, Kunert, Mulvihill, and their partners in EA have created a list of resources with the intent of recognising the deep impact of study abroad, not just on February 28, but every day.