Kent State looks to increase students studying abroad

Rachel Hagenbaugh

A Kent State academic program officer began traveling right after high school studying business at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada during the peak of the anti-Bush movement.

“Being there opened my eyes to different beliefs and thought processes,” said Tori Nethery, academic program officer for Kent State’s Office of International Affairs.

Nethery grew up in a small town in Indiana. Living in Canada during that contentious time took her out of her comfort zone. She learned to open her mind and also express her opinions.

During her education in London, Nethery said she felt like an ambassador for the U.S. Some Canadian students never met an American before. She said she felt like how she presented herself represented the U.S. After graduating from college, Nethery spent a couple months at home before traveling to South Korea for three years. Nethery’s mother, Teena Nethery, said she was concerned about her daughter because of the ongoing differences between North Korea and South Korea.

Tori eased her mother’s worries by staying in contact through email, text messages and phone calls. She also taught her mother how to use Skype. Teena said parents of students who study abroad need to “take a deep breath” and trust their children.

“The experience they get oversees, they can’t get anywhere else,” she said.

International experience is a critical issue, said Mary Anne Saunders, executive director of international affairs. It gives students a competitive advantage and enables them to be flexible.

Four main disincentives of studying abroad


Talking to others who studied abroad helps students get a first person perspective on what it is like, Saunders said. Problems that students may have in the U.S. become a larger issue in another country. Students learn to work through it and are more independent problem solvers because of it, said Sarah Hull, academic program officer.


Scholarships and financial aid almost always apply, Nethery said. Thinking about studying abroad as a freshman helps students plan and save money for it. Some programs are also more expensive than others. Hull said her department helps students decide which program is best for them based on personal preferences and financial restraints.

Foreign Languages

Some programs offer a variety of classes in English. Knowing the foreign language is not necessary to study abroad. However, Hull said the more preparations students do before studying abroad, the better they’ll feel.


Parents need to be happy for their children, Saunders said. For the Kent State semester in Florence program, students engage in a pre-departure orientation. Students are given safety and health tips before leaving the U.S. Hull said she stays with the students the first week to help transition them to the staff members in Florence.

The Kent State University Geneva study abroad program exposes students to international relations and gives them the opportunity to work for a non-governmental organization. Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said Kent State is working on increasing program opportunities for students who want to study abroad.

“We want as many students as possible to study abroad because it has a lot of fundamental advantages,” he said.

Tori said studying abroad for a full semester is the best opportunity for students. “It gives them a chance to live in that country and really absorb what they are experiencing,” she said.

Saunders said she’s trying to encourage deans and department chairs to allow faculty members to take their students on short-term study abroad programs. Part of educating students about study abroad programs involves interacting with social media and the Greek life. Ultimately, it comes down to the faculty members to see it as a valuable experience for students.

Every year in November, the Office of International Affairs hosts an International Cook-Off. Saunders said students form teams and make dishes from different countries. Students who attend the event can enjoy free food and visit the booths to learn about the different study abroad programs Kent State offers.

Saunders said Kent State faculty members are beginning to realize the meaningful experience of studying abroad for a short period of time. In the past year, Kent State increased its short-term study abroad programs from 17 to 27.

Some students cannot fund an entire semester abroad. Other students cannot fit it into their curriculum. Shorter programs allow students the opportunity to travel to other countries.

In March, journalism professors Gary Hanson and Mitch McKenney escorted 16 students to Shanghai, China for ten days. Hanson said this experience was a “life long impact” for many of his students. Hanson said shorter programs need to have a “focus project”. His students practiced journalism by covering stories about culture, business, economics, sports and the pressures of Chinese “tiger moms”.

In ten days, Hanson’s students were exposed to a completely different culture that changed their worldview. Hanson said this project was a “profound experience” for them.

“It shows students in their 20s that international travel is possible,” he said.

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Contact Summer Kent Stater reporter Rachel Hagenbaugh at [email protected].