Flagler’s International Center exposes students to value of global academic exchange on campus and abroad
Nov 14, 2022
International education programming at Flagler is robust and multi-faceted, accommodating students on both sides of the study abroad experience.
The International Center, led by Director Ashley Coffey and Assistant Director Brittany Brooks, works to facilitate “all facets of international education on campus.” This includes assisting Flagler students in their ventures abroad and supporting international students studying here in St. Augustine.
This week, the center will highlight its programming, resources, and the overall merits of study abroad experiences by celebrating International Education Week. This joint initiative of the US Department of State and the US Department of Education was created to acknowledge the “benefits of cultural and academic exchange programs around the world.”
This annual period of recognition is meant to promote “programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.”
Coffey underscored this value of international academic and cultural exchange.
“Studying abroad means immersing yourself in a new city and culture, surrounded by people you do not know,” Coffey said. “It helps you to find yourself and discover your passions, interests, and skills.”
If she had any advice for students who are on the fence about studying abroad it would be to “just jump out and do it.”
“I understand that not everyone can study abroad for a semester or an academic year, but we have a variety of programs that are one week, and we have a ton of faculty-led programs that are shorter if you don’t feel comfortable going somewhere by yourself,” she said.
From FlagSHIP experiences and Maymester courses to exchange and independent programs, students at Flagler have extensive and diverse options for study abroad experiences. And for students concerned about the financial commitment of a study abroad experience, the center has cultivated a list of applicable scholarships and helpful tips for crowdfunding.
Ahead of study abroad trips of any length or type, the International Center works with both faculty and students in preparation for the programs.
Students set to study abroad are required to attend the center’s “pre-departure orientations” detailing health, safety, legal, and cultural issues. To support them during the time leading up to a trip, the center also holds regular info sessions, accepts office hour visits, and sends out a weekly newsletter.
Coffey said a priority for supporting students studying abroad is “ensuring that their academic credits are able to transfer back to Flagler College after they return from their program.”
The center also works closely with faculty to develop and maintain study abroad programs that align with their curriculum.
“Whether it’s reviewing contracts, identifying places they want to establish programs, or working with them to ensure that the learning objectives are met with the itinerary that is set, it takes a good bit of time preparing faculty to go as well,” Coffey said.
Coffey said what’s just as important as preparing participants for a trip is ensuring they still feel the community of Flagler abroad so don’t feel disconnected when they return.
“The big thing is keeping them connected with Flagler College and what’s going on here,” she said.
The other side of the center’s mission is working closely with international students.
Flagler currently hosts about 120 international students from more than 40 countries, making up roughly five percent of the student body.
The center works with other divisions like the Office of Admissions and Career Development Center to ensure international students are accommodated at every step of their journey at Flagler, from acceptance to post-graduate success.
“I work to assist and integrate international students into the fabric of the campus and the surrounding community,” Coffey said.
Outside of international students and students who participate in study abroad experiences, it’s a reality that many students won’t travel internationally during their time at Flagler. With this in mind, Coffey said they also continuously work to bring elements of international education to campus.
Programming during International Education Week like a virtual tour of the United Nations and an “Around the World in One Night,” tabling event to showcase countries represented on Flagler’s campus are examples of this pursuit. But Coffey said the center also works to “internationalize curriculum,” through efforts like bringing international Fulbright Scholars and language teaching assistants to campus.
“We work as a team to create and coordinate campus cultural programs to ensure all students get an international experience,” she said.Tagged As