Posted December 9, 2011

Short-term study abroad offers concentrated global experience

Courtesy Mary Conran
Students prepare to descend 800 feet into the Ashanti Gold mine in Kumasi, Ghana during a January 2010 short-term study abroad trip.

Iris Kapo’s introduction to study abroad came during her freshman year, when she participated in a short-term program, Destination India, through the Fox School of Business.

Although Kapo is no stranger to international travel — she was born in Albania and lived in Greece for eight years — the short-term study abroad program opened doors. It changed the way she interacted with people. It made her more open-minded, understanding and curious.

“If you can’t afford, either because of time or finances, to study abroad for a whole semester, at least you say I’ll go for two weeks, and even though it was a short span of time, I took advantage of every minute and I learned everything I possibly could in that time period,” said Kapo, a double major in international business and management information systems. “Once you get out there, you want more.”

For the university’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), the first provider of short-term study abroad at Temple, “getting more” is the point. Temple CIBER, based at the Fox School, offers short-term study abroad to attract students who are typically underserved in study abroad: males, minority students, athletes and certain majors that have lockstep curriculum that makes it difficult to spend a summer or semester abroad.

In addition, many participants have never left the country before their short-term study abroad experience but then enroll in a second study abroad program, according to Kim Cahill, director of Temple CIBER and the Institute of Global Management Studies.

“We’re giving a chance to students who wouldn’t have had that opportunity, and then it’s providing a stepping stone for the freshmen or sophomores who say, ‘Wow. I have to have another experience,’” Cahill said.

That’s exactly what Kapo did. After returning to Main Campus for a semester following her trip to India, she embarked on a study abroad experience in Spain during her sophomore year. As a junior, she landed an internship with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center, which sent her on a summer internship to Mexico City.

Short-term study abroad consists of two weeks of intensive in-country study — academic lectures, corporate site visits and cultural excursions — in January. Students prepare for the trip in three pre-departure meetings that include reading assignments, quizzes and guest speakers. At the last session before departure, student teams make presentations on locations or companies they will be visiting and develop questions to ask once they arrive.

The program, a three-credit special topics course in international business, is open to all Temple students and fulfills a general education World Society credit. Reflective journaling is a big part of the experience, and students return in the spring semester to complete an independent research project with a faculty advisor.

The program has visited India three times and Ghana once. The next trip, again to Ghana, is scheduled for January, and CIBER is in the early planning stages for a 10-day trip to Vietnam in May. The program focuses on less-common destinations in emerging markets because of the growth and expansion opportunities in those countries.

Mary Conran, a marketing professor who has led short-term programs in India and Ghana and is championing the potential trip to Vietnam, has taken students to an automotive manufacturing plant, bottling plant, gold mine and stock exchange, among other sites. Students learn how globalization is happening in real-time. They also meet top executives, nonprofit directors, ambassadors and others who share insights on the challenges of emerging economies joining the global marketplace.

Students in her groups have included majors ranging from accounting and risk management to engineering, education and theater. No matter the major, she said study abroad transforms students’ personal goals and career aspirations. She also knows recruiters love discussing study abroad experiences in interviews.

The more unique the situation these experiences provide,” she said, “the more unique the conversation with potential employers.”