When a student first approaches you to ask about study abroad, where do you steer the conversation? To academics, ideal destinations, motivations and goals, or something else? We hope you include a discussion around “academic discipline,”
and here’s why: this approach to study abroad advising is one of the most effective ways to support student success in every aspect of the international education experience.
Advising prospective study abroad students based on their major or academic area of interest makes it easier for them to narrow down their destination options and confidently choose the best one. Trying to choose a program destination first,
without any guidelines, can lead students to disappointment and frustration if their initial destination choice can’t accommodate their major requirements or doesn’t offer the kinds of courses they’re looking for. Beginning
with the question “What is your major?” can immediately provide a working list of destinations where a student’s academic needs will be met, making the program selection process much quicker and easier.
Framing the study abroad decision-making process with a student’s major or discipline of interest reinforces the connection between academics and study abroad, which can be an important way to counter any false ideas students have about
study abroad programs being a kind of vacation or break from school. Getting students to think of their study abroad experience as essentially academic can help them make smart choices when they’re picking courses and take their
coursework more seriously once they’re onsite. Rather than viewing study abroad as tangential to the undergraduate program, as an extended extracurricular activity, students should see study abroad as a piece that fits directly into
their college degree puzzle, and advising them by academic discipline can guide them in that direction.
Advising by academic discipline can be just as beneficial for study abroad offices as it is for students, when there is an organized approach and supporting resources in place to facilitate the advising strategy. When study abroad offices
do not advise by academic discipline, students often get stuck with an overwhelming amount of leg work in trying to identify programs that will suit their needs and interests. Going back and forth between their Academic Affairs Office,
Study Abroad Office, and faculty trying to determine which courses to take abroad, when to go abroad, and which courses will be approved for credit can discourage students from completing a study abroad program application. When study
abroad advisors are prepared to advise students based on their major or academic discipline, it will minimize the amount of effort involved for both students and advisors in confirming a program’s appropriateness.
“We are moving from a location based advising model to a discipline based with the hopes of creating a more streamlined process for the students and removing unnecessary barriers,” said Paulina Brouder, Associate Director
of Study Abroad at the University of Missouri. “Rather than meeting with multiple study abroad advisors to discuss programs in various locations, the student can meet with one well versed advisor to review all the options for their major. As
a study abroad office, this will allow us to build closer connections with our academic departments and collaboratively, we can identify programs that are recommended for students in a specific major and highlight those during advising appointments.”
CEA provides several digital and print resources to support study abroad advising by discipline, including our user-friendly online program finder and accessible syllabi, standardized and custom flyers for disciplines, major-specific brochures
with recommended programs, and an advisor’s guide with accompanying demo.
For more information on CEA’s advising resources or to ask any questions you may have about study abroad advising by discipline, please reach out to your CEA University Regional Director.