Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity for students to gain new perspectives, learn new languages, make lifelong friends, improve cross-cultural communication skills, and prepare for the globalized community. For first-generation college students, the associated fees can make it challenging to participate in these types of experiences.
First-generation students in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs have received funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation to participate in one of the five faculty-led programs. Since 1997, the Coca-Cola Foundation has provided over 1,000 students of limited means with experience, both domestic and international, that expand the way they understand and approach global challenges.
Mia Floyd, a fourth-year International Affairs and Modern Languages student, was a Coca-Cola First Generation Scholar who studied abroad in the 2017 Southeast Asia Program. Through the program, led by Katja Weber, a professor in the Nunn School, Mia examined the non-traditional security challenges, environmental problems, water and food scarcity, human trafficking, and rights of transient workers and ethnic minorities. She spent time in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Singapore and was immersed in the different local cultures, studied the history of each place, and learned from a variety of experts from universities, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and locals.
“Studying abroad really helped me define what I wanted to do with my career path,” said Mia. “Coming back to Tech after that program, I picked up the Global Development minor, which I don’t think I would have known about had I not studied abroad and seen the issues first hand in those countries.”
Josephina Obi, a third-year International Affairs and Modern Languages student, participated in the 2018 Valencia, Spain Summer Program through the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship. Led by Dr. Kirk Bowman, a professor in the Nunn School, the International Affairs and Management tracks feature 7-10 weeks of intense examination of issues of parallel development. The comparisons are both cross-country (Spain and Portugal) and cross-Spain (Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona).
“With the scholarship money, I was able to do more cultural activities and see more cultural sites and not worry about whether I was going to break the bank or not,” said Josephina Obi. “I got to see how soccer actually affected the politics and political situation of the government.”
“A college degree is no longer sufficient for career success in an increasingly global environment," said Katja Weber. “To be able to compete for attractive job offers, first-generation students need to internationalize their curriculum and demonstrate a clear understanding of an increasingly complex international environment, much like their peers who come from households where an international education tends to be more emphasized.”
The Sam Nunn School prides itself on developing global policy makers for the 21st Century challenges. Study abroad programs like the Valencia, Spain and Southeast Asia are preparing first-generation scholars to be the next generation of global leaders.