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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Study abroad program makes comeback among new students

Emma Sutton / Hilltop Views
Eleanor Emerson, director of SEU’s Study Abroad Office, goes through emails from students seeking to go abroad during the spring semester.

The study abroad program at St. Edward’s University has always been a huge part of why students choose St. Edward’s as their institution of higher education. The Study Abroad Office offers a range of programs spanning semesters for students to partake in whether it be an exchange program or a group program.  

Over the past few years, the office has been hit hard by lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because many study abroad programs had to shut down, the office lost their main marketing strategy: students.

“There was no more institutional memory or student memory on campuses,” director of the Study Abroad Office Eleanor Emerson said. “In the past, we’ve used students who have returned from study abroad to be the greatest marketing force, because you come back from studying abroad and you meet with your friends and all you want to do is tell them stories. That’s been the main way that offices like mine would promote study abroad is just by word of mouth. 

Students play a big part in getting the word out about studying abroad. Without upperclassmen sharing their experiences, students who came in during the pandemic didn’t have anyone to tell them about how wonderful the study abroad programs are.

Since marketing strategy number one was missing in action, Emerson turned to an old classic and decided to re-up the office’s Instagram.

“I’ve picked up the social media again; trying to get the word out that way,” Emerson said. “We actually have a really fun social media thing going on now, which is called ‘Where in the world is Topper?’ I have a bunch of students who are abroad this semester, and I gave them each a stuffed Topper goat. They have to take pictures of the goats around and send them to me. And then we post it and give some hints about where Topper is.”

Before the pandemic, the study abroad office had around five employees and was combined with the International Students Office. During the pandemic, people were not able to risk traveling and fewer universities were offering exchange programs. According to Emerson, who began her position as director in 2021, most of the previous employees in the Study Abroad Office were laid off during that time as a result.

After being director for almost two years now, Emerson meets with around 20-25 students per week, many of them freshmen. 

 “What I am really noticing this fall is a big increase in first-year students that are already thinking about (studying abroad), and I think that is great,” Emerson said. “I’m not entirely sure what that’s due to. I’ve been attending all of the Choose SEU events that they hold in the spring and talking to a lot of families that way. The success coaches have been good advocates for that as well. That’s definitely been a big trend difference is seeing students starting earlier, and that is so beneficial for them.”

Emerson recommends that students who want to study abroad schedule an interest meeting with her at least a year in advance of their trip to get the most cohesive information about their chosen program. Starting an application earlier gives students more time to get courses approved, find housing in their chosen country and explore their program of interest. 

For students that aren’t able to go abroad during the regular semesters, the office has got them covered. Since summer tuition at St. Ed’s is notably more expensive than the fall and spring semesters, the study abroad office has been piloting ways to combat the costs.

“We’ve got some faculty-led programs that go in the summer, and we’ve been reimagining those,” Emerson said. “Historically, they’ve been prohibitively expensive, because of the cost of summer tuition. So, we’ve been looking at other ways of doing (summer study abroad). Some of our exchange partners abroad have invited some of our faculty to co-teach an existing summer course that they offer at their university abroad. Our faculty would bring in St. Ed’s students, and the students would pay the tuition to the university abroad, which is less considerably than St. Ed’s tuition.”

Money is a huge factor for students who are considering going abroad. Emerson wants to debunk the misconception that studying overseas always has to be expensive.

 “I think it’s a partial misnomer, that it costs a lot to do it,” she said.“The reality is, depending on where you go, it may cost the same or less as being here. I think that’s one of the biggest hurdles is trying to show students that it doesn’t have to be all that crazy, and expensive.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Sutton
Emma Sutton, Staff Writer
Emma Sutton is a junior a majoring in writing and rhetoric with a concentration in journalism and digital media. It is her second semester writing for Hilltop Views and first semester as a staff writer. She loves writing about all things pop culture but also has a soft spot for baseball.

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