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### Boosting Student Engagement Leads to Successful Study Abroad Program

The Study Abroad Office at Texas State University made a commitment in 2014 to enhance the number of students engaging in international study programs by the end of the decade, a goal that was achieved ahead of schedule.

Back in February 2014, Texas State University established a target to boost student participation in study abroad endeavors by 50 percent before 2020. This initiative was part of a broader nationwide endeavor, known as the Generation Study Abroad Initiative, aimed at increasing the percentage of students from U.S. universities pursuing studies overseas.

By the 2015-2016 academic year, the set goal was accomplished, with 783 students taking part in various study abroad programs spanning summer sessions, single-semester exchanges, and year-long academic experiences. Despite this achievement, the Study Abroad Office remains committed to further expanding these opportunities.

The remarkable increase in students undertaking international studies has not only impacted the Texas State student body significantly but has also attracted numerous foreign exchange students to the vibrant academic environment of San Marcos.

Ila Mar, a dedicated representative of the Study Abroad Office, played a pivotal role in translating the vision of increased student participation into reality and continues to spearhead efforts to elevate the level of international study engagements among students.

Mar emphasized the collaborative nature of this achievement, stating, “It’s been a huge collaborative effort. We’ve worked very closely with the departments, chairs, deans, and faculty to garner their support for study abroad initiatives.”

One notable strategy that has fostered greater student engagement in study abroad programs is the active involvement of professors in advocating for such opportunities and developing their own faculty-led initiatives. These efforts have significantly enhanced students’ awareness and involvement in international study programs over the recent years.

Jeremy Peña, who assumed the role of Program Coordinator at the Center for International Studies in 2013, has witnessed firsthand the surge in student participation in study abroad programs. This surge coincided with the mandate for international studies majors to fulfill a global studies requirement, effectively encouraging students to partake in study abroad experiences.

The financial support necessary to facilitate the global studies requirement and enable study abroad experiences for students outside the Center for International Studies has been made feasible through generous contributions from individuals who value the significance of international exposure.

Looking ahead, Peña has collaborated with various stakeholders across the university to further enhance financial aid opportunities for students pursuing international study programs. The availability of scholarships specifically tailored for study abroad endeavors has substantially alleviated the financial constraints for students, enabling a broader demographic to access these transformative experiences.

The Study Abroad Office’s ongoing efforts to diversify the student body engaging in international studies include initiatives to broaden access to funding for programs similar to those offered in Costa Rica. By expanding scholarship opportunities through partnerships with Texas State and affiliated study abroad program providers, the university aims to attract a more diverse range of students to participate in these enriching experiences.

The evolving demographics in higher education underscore the growing need for students to develop a global perspective, a goal that study abroad programs effectively address. The presence of students from other universities studying at Texas State further enriches the international learning environment that the university actively cultivates.

Tristan Roger, an urban planning major from Université Rennes 2 in Rennes, France, who is currently pursuing geography studies at Texas State this semester, highlights the academic benefits and personal growth opportunities afforded by his study abroad experience. Roger appreciates the exceptional classroom resources within the Geography Department and acknowledges the profound impact of his dedicated professors on his academic journey at Texas State.

Beyond the academic realm, Roger underscores the personal growth and newfound perspectives gained through interactions with diverse individuals during his study abroad venture. He emphasizes the transformative nature of such experiences, stating, “It benefits everyone; it’s opened my mind. I met so many new people with so many new perspectives on the world. It’s cliché to say, but my mind was opened so much thanks to my study abroad experience.”