Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Going Global: Traditionally, the Percentage of African American Students Who Studied Abroad Has Been Low; However, University Officials Are Looking into Ways to Increase Those Numbers

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Going Global: Traditionally, the Percentage of African American Students Who Studied Abroad Has Been Low; However, University Officials Are Looking into Ways to Increase Those Numbers

Article excerpt

International study abroad programs aren't new but they are beginning to take off at historically Black colleges and universities. The challenge for these institutions is to make such programs appealing and affordable to attract more African American students. Globalization is the buzzword for the new millennium and institutions are moving toward international programs to enhance the education of African American students.

"We're way behind where we should be for many reasons, and that's been the case nationwide," says Dr. Kenoye Eke, dean of academic affairs at Kentucky State University in Frankfort. "Minority students in general have been more reluctant to travel abroad."

Traditionally, international travel and study haven't been part of the culture for most students of color. With increased resources, however, more students likely would take advantage of study abroad opportunities.

"It must be made part of the vocabulary for our students at majority institutions as well as HBCUs," Eke says. "Most people think it's not obtainable. Most people think it's what rich White girls do in their junior year.

"The trick is to give them (all minority students) what they need in terms of scholarships to make it more obtainable," he says.

Black institutions are moving into the international arena but progress has been slow, Eke says. They're getting in at a time when the nation is scaling back in terms of resources and funding with budget cuts.

Kentucky State recently established a formal international program with an office of global education. When it comes to international education, the university has been mostly on the receiving end, enrolling hundreds of foreign students, primarily from the Caribbean or Latin America.

"The problem has been with our students," Eke says. "We haven't had the numbers we'd like to see. We realize that it works only when students have resources, so the university has committed to increasing its resources. ...We believe we'll see some results," he says.

Olasope O. Oyelaran, associate professor of English and foreign languages and director of International Programs at Winston-Salem State University, says the school is new to the study abroad program business and is still trying to find the formula that's right for it.

Working within the University of North Carolina system exchange program last year, Winston-Salem State sent two students to Russia and one student each to Mexico and Australia. In addition, three students went to Ghana, Australia and Finland. Next fall the school likely will have six more students go abroad, Oyelaran says.

INTEREST ON THE RISE

Overall, interest in study abroad is on the rise among students nationwide, increasing about 30 percent during the past year despite the Sept. 11 tragedy, Oyelaran says.

"I think most of the credit for the increase goes to students who have gone abroad and come back to share their experience with their friends and classmates," Oyelaran says.

Winston-Salem State will continue to use the UNC system until its own program is fully implemented.

"Our students are underrepresented. It's all about attitude," Oyelaran says. "People want to stay home under mother. Fear of the unknown is common. ... Some think it's for them (White people), not for us. That's why it makes a difference to have students who can share their experience."

It's also important to send students to areas where they will have the best cultural and psychological experience. Students need to visit countries that make them feel comfortable. But many of those countries do not have formal exchange agreements; therefore, most institutions offer study abroad programs in places such as Asia, Latin America and Europe. There aren't enough formal programs in less developed countries and those countries don't have the resources to provide for students when they get there, Oyelaran says.

"We need to find ways to subsidize these trips so students don't have to worry about creating debt. …

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