Internationalizing NWU

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  • Emma, far left, with fellow international NWU students
    NWU students at International Graduation
  • Emma, far left, with fellow international NWU students
    NWU students at International Graduation

Studying abroad at NWU has opened me to a world of opportunities. I am fortunate to have been awarded a place on the British Council Study USA program to spend a full academic year studying business in the United States. With a new perspective on my host country, and a fresh take on other international cultures around me, I am proud to be a part of the international community at Nebraska Wesleyan University.

My desire to study abroad began with my wanderlust, curiosity and a passion for new experiences. I am grateful for the opportunity to broaden my horizons and understanding of American culture.

For some, studying abroad is daunting. The idea of being away from family in a new country where you are completely out of your comfort zone isn’t always appealing. But this aspect helps us develop into more adaptable and confident individuals. Some students fear culture shock, and for many, studying abroad can be expensive and therefore unattainable.

Fortunately, there are many ways to embrace the magic of global culture. NWU’s initiative to internationalize campus includes sending students abroad, implementing Virtual Global Engagement (VGE) in classrooms and recruiting a diverse range of international students, like myself, to campus. A more globalized campus offers students further opportunities to learn, experience and celebrate the diverse ways of life around the world. NWU supports its students and helps them engage in cross-cultural experiences through the Office of Global Engagement (OGE) and the International Relations Organization (IRO).

The OGE can offer this important and growing part of the NWU experience thanks to the generosity of NWU alumni and friends through the Archway Fund. The Archway Fund helps make study abroad more accessible through scholarships and financial aid and helps international students—whether here for an exchange program or for their full college experience—smoothly adjust to their new environment with welcoming touches like snacks on the day of arrival, bedding and hangers.

Many of the benefits associated with recruiting international students can also be achieved by sending current students internationally. For those courageous enough to venture outside of the country. The Office of Global Engagement connects students to travel options from weeklong trips to an entire year abroad. They help students seize the academic, professional and personal benefits of global experiences: improving intercultural communication skills important for breaking down cultural barriers, building awareness of cultural norms and increasing self-awareness and self-understanding. Each of these benefits goes on to improve student life and campus culture.

Sarah Barr, NWU Director of Global Engagement, is working toward a day that 100% of Nebraska Wesleyan students will have some type of global experience, either through in-person study abroad trips, virtual global engagement or GLOCAL programs. GLOCAL is a term for engaging in the global community through local relationships. These experiences help NWU students get involved with international students on campus through IRO, the I-Pal program or working alongside immigrants and refugees in Lincoln through service learning.

The IRO community is not only for international students. After all, there is no better way to learn about a culture than to take a dive into it, surrounding yourself with different traditions and ways of life. Each week IRO has a cultural presentation, a fun and educational introduction to a variety of cultures around the world. On some occasions, members bring traditional food for IRO members to try. As a result of IRO’s immersive programming, students receive an increase in appreciation and a greater interest in further cultural exploration.

Last academic year, IRO and the OGE hosted their first international graduation. The ceremony gave thanks to the community created by internationals and celebrated their accomplishments. Without these organizations, my experience would not have been the same. Not only did I get to experience American culture through activities and trips, but IRO made it possible for me to meet and engage with other foreign exchange students forming an international community on campus.

 

The benefits of an internationalized campus extend into the classroom. Recruiting international students allows American students to hear diverse, international insights and unique perspectives that encourage open-minded behaviors. Most students I met in Nebraska have never been out of the country, and some have not left the state. Since Nebraska is not necessarily a tourism hot spot, NWU is often a Nebraskan student’s first opportunity to work alongside individuals who have not always lived in the United States. Globalizing campus and our classrooms present current NWU students with an opportunity to ask questions, understand our differences and become better acquainted with the values and traditions of others. The mutual respect and friendships that NWU students form are essential in preparing us to work within a global market.

Gifts to the Archway Fund support the resources necessary to integrate a global perspective into the classroom. The transformative power of training faculty to incorporate virtual global engagement was especially evident during the pandemic when students and faculty could not travel. Several NWU faculty, in partnership with EDU Africa, provided students with the opportunity to learn and transform through cross-cultural engagements. In one class, Nebraska Wesleyan students virtually joined students from South Africa to talk about the impact of the global pandemic. Afterward students reflected on how, although their cultures are different, they share many of the same experiences.

 

International students or those who have traveled internationally are great ambassadors for promoting study abroad. I have had several opportunities to speak to attentive students who are considering study abroad. In doing so, I helped ease nerves and enhance the excitement in my peers. On some occasions, I even got to speak to students traveling to Ireland. Having a first-hand experience is a wonderful way to encourage students to pursue that desire.

Having a campus enriched with diverse cultures adds to a thriving university and provides a more welcoming and positive campus culture. Your gifts make study abroad more affordable, accessible and inclusive, ultimately helping to meet the goal of understanding each other and how we live in the world.

Story by Emma Burns ('23)