Strengthening the Campus Study Abroad Advising Process

May 08, 2014

By Vera V. Chapman, PhD, and Marty Tillman

On campuses, increasing attention is being placed on the initial decision-making process that students undergo as they study abroad, as well as the ongoing process of self-reflection about what they are learning while abroad. We see this heightened concern as an outcome of the soft economy and the need of many students to directly link learning outcomes of their international experiences to their marketability as applicants in the job search. Another contributing factor is increased attention to standards of good practice in the overall design and implementation of study abroad programs. The result is that many campuses are faced with the question of how to best strengthen the advising processes for students who study abroad.

Campuses provide an uneven continuum of support to assist students in the "unpacking" (or sense-making) of their study abroad experiences after they return to campus. Sometimes it is an online self-assessment tool; sometimes it involves a voluntary debriefing seminar; at other times, it may involve mandatory participation in a one-credit course as requirement for participation in a campus-designed program. It is rare to find a campus with a fully integrated approach to advising, reflection, and unpacking, though there are a few examples of best practices. One of the best models in the country is in place at the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center; the Center is hosting a Career Integration Conference in July 2014.

Requiring resources and institutional investment, making sense of a cross-cultural experience demands a purposeful effort by campuses to both prepare students for such an experience and to help them make meaning of their experiences upon return to campus. As parents increasingly hold campuses accountable for student employment outcomes and as employers continue to raise concerns about the lack of practical training of new graduates, this strategy is unavoidable. Students must be able to apply what they learned abroad in their job search and articulate how their international experiences have strengthened their skills and competencies to succeed in the global workforce.

Policymakers and frontline education abroad professionals understand the importance of the linkage; however, campuses are often hard pressed to do more to provide the level of support in the advising process that is necessary for students to make meaning of and effectively articulate the value of their international experiences.

These are among the issues we will address in a dialogue with participants during NAFSA's annual conference in San Diego. Join us for "Linking Education Abroad & Student Career Development: Effective Advising Practices" in the Career Center on Tuesday, May 27, 2:00 p.m.-2:45 p.m.


vera chapmanVera V. Chapman, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of Career Development at Colgate University's Center for Career Services where she provides the primary vision for advising and program development by leading the career advising team. Vera counsels and advises diverse students and alumni in all phases of the career development process. An active scholar, Dr. Chapman serves as Field Editor for the National Career Development Association’s (NCDA) Career Convergence web magazine, Associate Editor for the Journal of International Students, and Peer Reviewer for the Journal of Career Development. She may be reached at vchapman@colgate.edu or @VeraVChapman.

Marty Tillman has been a NAFSA member since 1977 and recent chair of the NAFSA Task Force on Career Development Resources. He has over 30 years of senior management experience in higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations. Tillman is currently the president of Global Career Compass, an international consultancy; formerly, he was associate director of Career Services at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His consulting focuses upon the impact of education abroad on career development. An authority on global workforce issues, he is a frequent NAFSA speaker and regularly writes for the International Educator magazine.


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