Increasing success of Purdue undergraduate study abroad programs in Colombia

Colombia rapidly became one of the top destination for Purdue undergraduate study abroad programs from all colleges. In the past five academic years, the number of undergraduate students traveling to Colombia has increased from 33 to 229, and it is expected to keep increasing "Most students participated through short-term programs (e.g. summer and spring break) led by faculty members" explains Dr. Brian Harley, Associate Dean of International Programs and Director of Study Abroad, "one notable program was when the Marching Band had a credit-bearing study abroad program in 2015".

The Colombia-Purdue Initiative (CPI) was created on 2011 with the objective of connecting Colombia with Purdue for mutual sustainable development and benefit. Our efforts can be reflected on a boost of study abroad programs in Colombia right after CPI establishment, where we keep working tirelessly to build strong relationships and knowledge exchange between both places. Purdue offers a wide variety of study abroad programs, but in this article, we will focus on four and the student experiences. If you would like to know about a specific program, please visit the Study Abroad Website.

Number of Purdue undergraduate students that have participated in Study Abroad programs in Colombia from 2011 to 2016, by college. Source: Purdue Data Digest.

Purdue study abroad programs in Colombia from all colleges since 2006. Source: Office of programs for study abroad at Purdue.

Purdue and Universidad de Antioquia students brainstorming about potential projects

Polytechnic Institute: Open Studio. "Open Studio: Interactive Art and 3-D Animation" is an exciting study abroad summer course led by Purdue professor and Colombia native, Esteban García, in collaboration with Isabel Restrepo, Art professor at Universidad de Antioquia, institution where the course is taught. Open Studio is a space for cultural exchange between students from Universidad de Antioquia and Purdue University, and academic growth in the areas of interactive visualization and digital arts. An average of 15 Purdue students participate each time the course is offered. Students not only develop team work skills in a multicultural setting and travel to a new country, but they get to present their projects in an exhibition that is open to the public. "Forming teams with Colombian students was really fun, I got to learn a lot from them, and the whole experience was surreal" says Shubham Gulati, Computer Graphics Technology student at Purdue and former participant of Open Studio. Similarly, Yue Zhao, senior student at Computer Graphics Technology", explains the importance of having an exhibition that is open to the public: "I really liked the exhibition because I've never experienced that before. I have studied at Purdue for two years, and the final projects are usually sent just to the professor to be graded. But that is not fun. During the exhibition at Open Studio, we get comments from other people which makes us feel proud of our projects". More student experiences can be found in this video.

Purdue students enjoying the Colombian landscape. (Left to right: Liliana Pond, Emily Yakel and Lynsey Hoeft). Photo taken in Pereira, Colombia

College of Agriculture: Food Security and Sustainable Development. This program was led by Dr. Adriela Fernandez, Director of Latin Programming in Agricultural Economics, in partnership with Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira (UTP), and Universidad de Caldas in Colombia, and an average of ten Purdue undergraduate students per year, have been part of it. This course is taught with case studies that represent different regions of the world with special emphasis on food security and the changing conditions for tropical agriculture. Lynsey Hoeft, student in the College of Liberal Arts, shared her life-changing experience with us: "I fell in love with Colombia and it's beauty. I think that the best part about this experience was connecting with the other Colombian students. You really get a sense of their culture and get to practice Spanish by being with them constantly. The students took us out at nights to show us around their cities and that was incredible. Working with them on our final project was amazing because we had people from all different backgrounds and countries contemplating big environmental questions. One of the more challenging things was the language barrier but it always works out in the end. Colombia is not the safest of places, so just making sure we were being safe was hard sometimes because it was easy to forget".

College of Engineering: Global Engineering Programs. GEP creates globally competent engineers for a globalized world. Since 2013, GEP has sent over 60 students to Colombia in either short-term (<6 months) or long-term (6 months; Engineering Term Abroad -ETA-) programs. ETA is an exceptional multicultural experience for Purdue students because is cost-neutral, improves their resume, and they can take engineering classes in English while overseas at Universidad del Norte or Universidad EAFIT, and credits are transferred to Purdue. "The Colombian ETA programs are partially funded by the ExxonMobil Foundation and are part of 100,000 Strong in the Americas, the White House's premiere education initiative for the Western Hemisphere" explains Heidi Parker, Assistant Director of GEP Latin America/Spain Programs. "Students who have participated in ETA, our signature program, in Colombia, agree that this is a life-changing experience because they get completely immersed in the culture" says Dr. Parker, "and when they return to Purdue, they become emissaries of their experience and help break stereotypes that potential students may have about Colombia". Student experiences can be found in these videos.

"Through these unique academic and professional experiences, I gained a new perspective on both Colombian and North American workplace culture and learned the importance of adaptability to my professional success" Marissa Berns

Office of Professional Practice: Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education. GEARE is a comprehensive international work experience model that seeks to incorporate language and cultural training, domestic and international work/research, global design team projects, and study abroad into the four-year engineering curriculum. "The average GPA for students participating in GEARE is 3.5, they speak a second language, and understand the culture of the country they have chosen", explains Joseph Tort, Assistant Director of Global Professional Practice Programs at Purdue University. With programs in over 20 countries, Colombia has been selected by five students as their exchange location since 2015. Some GEARE students, do their study abroad experience through ETAs, GEP signature program. An example of this is adventurous Marissa Berns, Industrial Engineer and current graduate student at Purdue, who was the first student to travel abroad to Universidad EAFIT in Medellín, Colombia and interned at the National Chocolate Company. "The GEARE Colombia program provided me the opportunity to network with a wide variety of interesting and very accomplished professionals in Colombia while improving my Spanish fluency and exploring one of the most beautiful countries in the world" explains Berns.

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