Purdue News

July 25, 2006

Expert: Study abroad most valuable with incoming freshmen

Riall Nolan
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Students benefit by studying abroad any time during their college years, but the experience is most valuable if done immediately preceding the freshman year, says a Purdue University expert.

"Reaching students at the entry point is especially powerful because it has the potential to shape their whole way of thinking, not just for their time at college, but also for the rest of their lives," says Riall Nolan, associate provost and dean of International Programs at Purdue.

Nolan was instrumental in the creation of a program started at Purdue last year that takes students who are just about to begin their freshmen year to Laval University in Quebec — a primarily French-speaking province of Canada. This year's group of 34 will travel to Quebec City from Aug. 5-11.

"Purdue's program of reaching students before they get to class is unusual, and, as far as I know, no other university in the United States that is doing this kind of thing," he says.

Nolan says study-abroad experiences can be beneficial to anyone at any age, but focusing on those about to begin college enables them to gain much more from their college courses and interactions.

"Most students coming into college have little or no experience in traveling abroad," he says. "And what we find after they travel is that a transformation begins to take place. The students start to feel more flexible, more comfortable with such things as taking foreign-language courses, learning about other cultures or becoming aware and informed about foreign-policy issues.

"It really helps shape the way they learn and think about the world and solve problems. They learn not only what the problems are, but also what questions to ask."

Nolan, who has lived and worked in Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Senegal, Papua New Guinea, Somalia and the former Soviet Union, leads an international program at Purdue that during the 2005-06 academic year sent about 1,000 students abroad and had more than 4,800 students from other nations studying here. Earlier this year, Purdue was selected as one of five institutions nationally to receive the 2006 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization.

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998, kmedaris@purdue.edu

Source: Riall Nolan, (765) 494-9399, rwnolan@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: Nolan also can discuss other study-abroad and international student trends.


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