By Deborah Lohse
Santa Clara students know studying abroad is a path towards global knowledge and transformative experiences. SCU is racing to keep up with demand.
Eric Bressinger ’21 is an engineering major who hopes to devote his life to emerging technologies, and was voted a “Rising Star” by the influential trade group IEEE.
But for his two stints studying abroad, he chose to spend time studying Capuchin monkey behavior in Costa Rica, and taking five classes for his music minor in Vienna. The primate research, he says, taught him invaluable lessons about the rigors and realities of real-life fieldwork and “the mindset and process of doing my own research.” And completing most of his piano minor in a place sometimes called the “capital of classical music” has been a dream.
Study abroad “has easily been my greatest experience during my time at Santa Clara,” he says.
Bressinger is one of the growing number of Santa Clara students who see the world as their campus—and study abroad as their ticket to a truly global education.
In recent years, there have been Broncos studying on every continent except Antarctica. In the most recent academic year, more than 700 students expressed interest in study abroad. About 550 applied and were deemed qualified; and 480 were ultimately placed in programs.
However, Santa Clara is in a race to close the gap between the increasing level of demand for study abroad—which can be highly competitive—and SCU’s capacity to place students abroad, said Susan Popko, associate provost for international programs.
“We’re admitting a higher academic caliber of students, often who have had a gap year or who studied abroad in high school,” Popko said. That translates to “an increased expectation for experiential learning opportunities—what we call ‘high impact practices’ like study abroad.”
At SCU and nationally, studying abroad has a tremendous payoff for student outcomes. Research shows that students who graduate with two or more such “high impact” experiences graduate at a higher on-time rate, have higher GPAs, find jobs faster, and are more likely to give back to their universities and communities. Some examples of high impact practices include study abroad, undergraduate research, and residential learning community programs. Global experiences reinforce our Jesuit mission to educate the whole person.
At SCU, all students who are on scholarships can use those funds to help them study abroad. Lily Vesce ’20 is the recipient of the Thomas John Young Endowed Scholarship. She studied abroad and completed an internship in London during Fall of 2018. In addition to traveling to 10 countries and learning international rules in her field of finance, Vesce said that the forced independence of her experience “made me more confident that I can fend for myself and problem-solve in real life situations.” She already has a full-time job at Deloitte lined up after graduation.
While Santa Clara works very hard to ensure that study-abroad costs align with on-campus costs, and maintains a strong program of study-abroad scholarship advising, there remains a steep financial gap to fulfill the University’s goal of ensuring that every student who wants to study abroad is supported to do so.
The Study Abroad Office in the Global Engagement unit provides multiple levels of student advising, articulation of study abroad experiences into the students’ SCU degree and career goals, as well as re-entry programming for returning scholars.
To support the viability and growth of global opportunities for students, Santa Clara University is aiming to raise $3 million to enable more students to study abroad as part of its $1 billion Innovating with a Mission comprehensive campaign.
“Study Abroad teaches students a much more expansive way of understanding themselves and their place in the world. It enhances students’ abilities to ask hard questions and place their interests and fields of study into an international context,” said Popko. “Investment in Study Abroad fosters our Jesuit goal of educating “men and women for others” and preparing them for the globally interconnected world ahead.”
To support global engagement and study abroad programming at SCU click here.