Rebekah Davis

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University has not yet reached its stated goal to triple the number of students who study abroad over the last five years, a commitment the school made when it joined the Generation Study Abroad initiative in 2014.

Generation Study Abroad was created by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in 2014 to increase the number of students in the U.S. who study internationally.

In a June 2014 press release announcing the plan, Winthrop reported there were 103 students who studied abroad during the 2011-2012 school year, or about 2 percent. That number increased to 7 percent by fall 2012, according to the school.

However, the most recent figures available appear to show there has been no growth in the number of study abroad students since joining the initiative and stating the goal to triple participation.

Statistics, from the Winthrop International Center, show there was a total of 132 students who participated in faculty led international programs during the 2017-2018 academic year, which was about 2 percent of the student population.

Although, there were 191 total study abroad experiences, because some students participated in multiple programs.

Chelsi Colleton, Winthrop’s study abroad coordinator since 2016, said even though they haven’t met the goal, the study abroad program at Winthrop has benefited from being a part of the initiative.

“Last year our students were awarded over $31,000 in scholarships just for study abroad and the majority of those were through Generation Study Abroad initiatives,” said Colleton.

Winthrop was also awarded a grant through the program to sponsor passports for 120 students this school year.

Since joining the program, Colleton said Winthrop has increased its efforts to get students involved in study abroad in a variety of ways.

“We’ve made some different kind of marketing pieces and fliers to make sure our students know what our Winthrop programs are and also how much they cost. We’ve tried really hard to make sure that the cost is transparent and that when students meet with us, we are finding them the best program for their budget,” said Colleton.

Advocates of the Generation Study Abroad initiative say international study is important, because it’s a way for students to gain global skills and create future opportunities.

Colleton said studying abroad also helps students to learn about themselves by becoming more independent and developing problem solving skills.

Olivia Paxton, a former Winthrop student who studied in Argentina her sophomore year, said she learned many things and developed an appreciation for other cultures during her study abroad experience.

“It helped me to be more independent and work on my social and language skills. Plus, I had a host mother and another girl in the program I was living with and it was great to build a support system outside of my family,” said Paxton.

Colleton said that the school will continue to push study abroad for all students, because “there is no other experience like an education abroad.”