College Students in Connecticut Gather for Study Abroad Conference in Changing Context

Timing, as the saying goes, is everything.  This Saturday, February 4, the fourth annual Connecticut Area Study Abroad Conference will held, sponsored by eight higher education institutions and hosted at the University of Hartford.  The conference offers sessions for students who have studied abroad, highlighting “unpacking your time abroad, and learning how to use your study abroad experience to network and get your dream job.” Developed by a committee of study abroad professionals, the conference will also offer sessions on topics including career paths of study abroad participants, volunteer and non-profit opportunities abroad and internationalizing your résumé and interviews.

Organizers from eight colleges and universities in Connecticut could not have imagined, when the date was set months ago, that international travel through the United States would be the focus of world-wide attention in the wake of a presidential executive order.

Participating universities include University of Bridgeport, University of New Haven, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield University, Quinnipiac University, UConn Law School, Trinity College and University of Hartford.  Last year’s conference was hosted by the University of New Haven.

“Now more than ever, studying abroad is important,” said Trinity College’s Zachary Macinnes, one of the individuals developing the conference.  “In addition to setting students apart on the job market after graduation, participation in study abroad is positively associated with a host of benefits, including higher GPA, retention, increases in critical thinking and writing skills, greater appreciation for diversity, increased lifetime earnings and deeper engagement overall.” 

Macinnes, Outreach Coordinator and Study Away Advisor: Spain, Latin America & the Caribbean at Trinity College in Hartford, also notes that only 10 percent of U.S. students study abroad during college.  Taking the lead for the University of Hartford is Meaghan Murphy, international program administrator for the school’s Study Abroad program.  Nationwide, 33 percent of college students participating in study abroad programs are juniors, 26 percent are seniors and 13 percent are sophomores.

The top nations for U.S. students participating in study abroad programs are the United Kingdome, Italy, Spain, France, China, Germany, Ireland, Costa Rica, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, India and the Czech Republic, according to data compiled by the Institute of International Education.   The most frequent academic areas studied include the STEM fields, business & management, physical or life sciences, health professions, engineering, math or computer science, and agriculture, the organization’s data reveals.

The website promoting the event tells students that “Your study abroad experience is not an isolated activity that has a definite beginning and end. Instead, study abroad is a life-changing event that continues to develop and evolve long after you have returned home.”  The site adds that “You will find yourself changed, sometimes in surprising, unanticipated ways. Your academic and personal goals may be different, and you may now have a better appreciation for the international students on campus.”

The plan was for student resumes to be reviewed, and for information to be provided to enable students “learn more about how to go abroad again.”  Organizers indicate that will still take place, but clearly in a very different context.

The event is open to any student from a college or university in Connecticut who has studied abroad, in any foreign country, for any length of time. The conference, hosted by Trinity College and the Univeristy of Hartford, will take place on Saturday, February 4, 2017 from 9:30am-3:00pm at the University of Hartford in the Great Room of Konover Campus Center.