Rick Steves: Study Abroad a “Necessity”

Long-time writer, television host and all-around travel dork Rick Steves made some unexpected waves last week when he declared that “Study abroad is a necessity, not a luxury” article in a USA Today opinion piece. His opening lines were:

Even in challenging economic times, making sure that study abroad is part of our college students’ education is a vital investment. If we want a new generation of leaders and innovators who can be effective in an ever more globalized world, sending our students overseas is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.

I’d imagine that nearly everyone in international education would support Rick’s general idea here (i.e., that more students should study abroad) – and it’s always nice to have someone come from the outside and  advocate. His op-ed piece was perhaps lacking in spec

ifics and even more so in solutions. In practice, though, students are deterred from study abroad for a host of varied and individualized reasons. What’s holding your students back? I have included the two most common roadblocks to international education in Texas, and possible solutions for reference:

Financial Reasons – Even if the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act were passed tomorrow, it’s hard to imagine that 2% participation rate rising much above a couple percentage points at most. Dependent on their home institution’s policies, advisors are constrained as to what they cam do. With that said, educating students about scholarship opportunities and advisement on lower-cost programs can help.

Curriculum or Credit Transfer ReasonsUniversities with clearly-articulated policies for study abroad that are well-understood by staff/faculty – not to mention students – are likely to send more abroad. This requires coordination with different parts of campus (Financial Aid, Registrar, VP of Academic/Student Affairs, etc.). Once policies are finalized, your goal is to educate everyone on campus as to what they are – and why it matters.

While one should never rule out top-down institutional change entirely, it’s more likely that participation will grow incrementally and as a direct result of your efforts.

Reflections on a Year in Travel

It’s been a busy year.

Looking back, I managed to pull off more travel than ever. This year I traveled to at least 8 countries, all but two for the first time:


Summer Palace in January - Beijing.

January 2011

Seoul, South Korea

Beijing, China

Shanghai, China

March 2011

Seattle, Washington

Vancouver, British Columbia

June 2011

Bogotá, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Medellín, Colombia

September 2011

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Wilmington, Delaware

December 2011

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Córdoba, Argentina

Santiago, Chile

Panama City, Panama

Which of these stuck with me the most? It’s hard to say. What I do know is that it’s almost that time to move forward into a new year of new adventures.

Mi Buenos Aires Querido

Can’t help but enjoy one of my all-time favorite cheesy tango ballads as I get ready for my first time in Argentina.

Acaricia mi ensueño
el suave murmullo de tu suspirar.
Como rie la vida
si tus ojos negros me quieren mirar.
Y si es mio el amparo
de tu risa leve
que es como un cantar,
ella aquieta mi herida,
todo todo se olvida.

El día que me quieras
la rosa que engalana,
se vestirá de fiesta
con su mejor color.
Y al viento las campanas
dirán que ya eres mía,
y locas las fontanas
se contaran su amor.

La noche que me quieras
desde el azul del cielo,
las estrellas celosas
nos mirarán pasar.
Y un rayo misterioso
hara nido en tu pelo,
luciernaga curiosa que veras
que eres mi consuelo.

El día que me quieras
no habra más que armonía.
Será clara la aurora
y alegre el manantial.
Traerá quieta la brisa
rumor de melodía.
Y nos daran las fuentes
su canto de cristal.

El día que me quieras
endulzara sus cuerdas
el pajaro cantor.
Florecerá la vida
no existira el dolor

La noche que me quieras
desde el azul del cielo,
las estrellas celosas
nos mirarán pasar.
Y un rayo misterios
hará nido en tu pelo.
Luciernaga curiosa que veras
que eres mi consuelo.

Rio Grande Valley: Quirk & Circumstance

I just got back from a quick four-day trip to South Padre Island in South Texas. I had never been before and, as a native Texan, was slap happy to get some sand time with old friends. I was also happy to snap this puzzling/awesome picture outside of a Valero in Port Isabel:

I will be back in the Valley in a couple weeks for my brother’s wedding, and I have a feeling there will be a lot to explore in this very unique part of Texas!