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Going Global

JU is aggressively moving to create a more globally aware student body with new approaches and programs that are better preparing students for the modern world.

By Jack Roth

One of the highlights of my trip was touring the southwestern lochs with my mentor. We left early on a Wednesday morning, traveling an old, two-lane military road called the A83 (the only road to where we were going). Our first stop was in a beautiful glen. We had a snack and a coffee, and I took a lot of pictures. We continued along A83 through these mountains and munros (UK term for mountains over 3,000 ft.) for another hour, passing through small towns. We also drove along the coasts of Loch Lomond and Loch Long.

We dropped in The Oyster Bar along Loch Fyne for a snack. I had a plate of fresh oysters on-the-half-shell. Delicious. Not earthy like the ones from Florida; these were instead sharp and herb-like. We drove all the way to a town called Lochgilphead before we turned back for home. The scenery was breathtaking along the way. It’s what I imagined Scotland looked like before I came. – from Zacchari Gale’s travel blog

Zacchari Gale, 22, an Aviation Management and Flight Operations student at Jacksonville University, went to Scotland in 2014 as the first Davis College of Business student to study abroad in a unique exchange program with the City of Glasgow College in Glasgow, Scotland. His goal was to experience international business without language barriers, and thanks to an agreement between JU and CGC, Gale spent three months in Scotland he will never forget.

“When the plane broke through the clouds over Scotland, it was a misty, surreal day, and that’s when I saw a foreign country for the first time,” recalls Gale, who could not understand a word his Scottish flight companions said, especially over the engine noise. “Then I got into the wrong side of the car that picked me up at the airport. It was fun being a novelty, as there aren’t many tourists in Glasgow, but I quickly picked up on things and immersed myself in the culture.”

To see himself outside his comfort zone was a revelation for Gale, a Jacksonville native who did not travel much before his Scotland trip.

“The experience helped me define who I was and helped me see what I was made of,” explains Gale. “I took advantage and explored a lot of cultural sites on my own, which was also character-building for me. I bought a map and wandered around the city, checking things off as I saw them. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going, which made it even more exciting.”

For Gale, the Scottish people were his favorite part of his experience. Open and friendly, the Scots were easy to talk to, and he learned a great deal from his in-depth conversations with them. He made lifelong friends in his classes and during his time exploring.

“I was the first American student to ever study there, and the school was incredibly gracious and welcoming,” he said. “They took me to several business events in order to connect with local business people, and I learned how a different culture conducted business. The entire trip afforded me so much in the way of learning and adventure.”

Globalization across the Board

Gale’s international experience is one of the many that JU students are having these days, thanks to a purposeful and thoughtful global initiative being implemented by the administration and staff. The goal: Meet the rising demand for globally aware students by preparing every graduate to work anywhere in the world and possess the international savvy necessary to succeed in the world marketplace.

“We use a multi-layered approach to internationalization,” explains Dr. CK Kwai, chief international officer. “We introduce a global component through programs and initiatives on multiple layers, including within the curriculum, through international student interaction on campus, and with study abroad programs.”

Kwai works with individual faculty members to “internationalize” their curriculums by encouraging them to use global examples in their coursework and apply cultural nuances to economics, management, education and other career tracks.

“Our goal is to insert an international aspect into every program we offer,” he adds. “Today, most jobs have an international component to them, and offering different perspectives helps students better understand the world.”

Jorge Majfud, associate professor of Spanish, is a big proponent of globalization. As an educator, he strives to open up the world to his students and helps them develop intellectual skills such as critical thinking while also gaining valuable knowledge.

“I’m always probing for the truth with my students and questioning fabricated or arbitrary truths,” he says. “Learning a new language, about other cultures and different world views makes people more aware of their own culture and language. It makes them smarter, more tolerant, less fearful, and consequently freer and less dangerous.”

Pervasive in all educational programs, this global mindset is necessary for the successful implementation of JU’s international initiative. Capt. Matt Tuohy, director of Aeronautics in the School of Aviation Management and Flight Operations, points out that many modern industries require a global mindset. By definition, aviation is a global industry, which is why students receive a business core in addition to aviation science courses. Aviation management job opportunities exist around the world.

“Whether you want to be a pilot or an aviation manager, your options will include overseas jobs,” said Tuohy. “An international flavor exists even within our domestic airlines, so anytime we can expose students to international concepts, it helps broaden their perspectives. This also adds value to their education because they’re going to be working in global environments.”

Many of the aviation management case studies Tuohy presents to students focus on foreign airports. By exposing students to global approaches to aviation management, they are better prepared to enter the workforce. The aviation program has made an investment in developing international partnerships and attracting international students for both the aviation and management sides of the program. This has resulted in increased opportunities for all students.

“Every day, I talk to young adults about flying and the aviation industry, and they know what they want and are willing to work hard to get there,” Tuohy said. “Our curriculum is designed to give them the aviation and business skills needed for career success, and it’s gratifying knowing we’ve given them the tools they need not only to be technically proficient, but to also possess a global awareness that will benefit them in their careers.”

Integrating International Students

Kwai stresses that globalizing a university occurs only when more international students are integrated on campus and local students get opportunities to study and grow abroad. By doing so, every student experiences new cultures both on campus and in other countries.

For foreign students, U.S. college curriculums are more desirable because they offer more flexibility, which gives them the time to explore what they want to do. Schools like JU, with liberal arts and professional programs, are also highly valued because they promote critical thinking and multiple perspectives in learning. Currently, JU has more than 60 countries represented on campus, and when these students go back home, they become ambassadors for higher education in the United States.

“If we’re going to encourage international students to come to your school, we need to have the resources, infrastructure and support network available to ensure they are comfortable and able to acclimate so they get the most out of the experience,” says Kwai. “It can be quite challenging for international students, who experience culture shock and language barriers, and come from vastly different academic curriculums.”

JU has the resources in place to ensure international students have positive experiences both academically and socially. To that end, the university provides the best academic advisors and tutors, as well as cultural sensitivity training classes for faculty and staff so they better understand what these students are going through.

The first department international students connect with when they register for classes is the Academic Advising Center.

“They come here to acclimate, so we offer a mandatory first-year experience course, which is geared to cover all of their questions and concerns,” said Roderick Jungbauer, director of Academic Advising. “Instructors expect the same level of work from all students, so it’s imperative international students get comfortable as quickly as possible.”

One of the topics discussed in the first-year experience course is culture shock, which many international students experience. The goal is to make them view culture shock as normal and expected. Students are encouraged to be patient, and to understand they will feel homesick and stressed, but that it will get better.

“We want our international students to love this school, graduate and tell others about their wonderful experiences here,” said Jungbauer, who also encourages foreign students to connect with the International Students Club and other student organizations. “Whatever their struggles, we want to help them get past them and flourish.”

Karla Reigosa, international admissions officer, believes bringing diversity and multiculturalism onto campus provides many benefits to the entire student body and makes the university better as a whole. Reigosa has increased outreach globally to enhance the international student body and provide global awareness to local students through different programs and initiatives.

“When a local student from Jacksonville takes a class with students from Costa Rica, Germany and Australia, it opens up a world to them they may never have experienced otherwise,” she said. “This adds a critical perspective in a globally interactive world.”

Studying Abroad

Another critical element of globalization is education abroad, which allows students to experience foreign cultures while completing coursework. Education (or study) abroad programs at JU vary in length, giving students the choice to choose a duration (and location) they feel comfortable with.

“Education abroad is incredibly valuable, no matter the industry or career path a student chooses,” said Ginny Garzon, director of Study Abroad and a JU alumna (’11). “Employers are looking for employees who are open-minded, willing to embrace challenges, capable of working with people from diverse backgrounds and able to understand the interconnectedness of our world and the impact that has on so many aspects of our daily lives.” 

Garzon works for International Educations Programs (IEP), an education abroad contractor embedded on JU campus. As someone who experienced a semester overseas as a student, she cannot think of any other experience that engaged, challenged and prepared her more for life after college.

“You get the chance to meet new people, consider different perspectives, learn or practice a new language and gain the self-confidence you need to be successful beyond college.”

The partnership between JU and IEP has resulted in the development of not only various study abroad opportunities, but new JU overseas campuses. Starting in spring 2017, JU will open and allow students to study at five worldwide study centers, in Australia, Costa Rica, Spain, Germany and Italy. These campuses will highlight specific program offerings and target those majors.

“I’ve worked with hundreds of students in the 10 years I’ve been at JU, and I still get emotional when a student returns from a semester or summer abroad and walks into my office, grinning ear to ear,” admits Garzon. “To hear a student say: ‘Thank you. This experience changed my life,’ is humbling. To see a student who six months prior seemed unsure and scared return to campus full of life and confidence, and ready to continue exploring … that’s powerful.” 

Doug Johansen, department chair of Marketing and International Business, agrees with Garzon regarding the benefits of studying abroad.

“We have an international business major, but we offer a lot of exchanges and study abroad opportunities because we want to provide our students with a better understanding of different cultures and how they do business. Business cultures vary, and these nuances affect how you interact with people.”

Johansen said he believes having a global mindset or perspective on how we view the world allows us to deal with a greater set of possibilities. For students, it makes them more eager to pursue international business opportunities and allows them to succeed in a competitive job market.

“Goals of organizations don’t change, but the way you achieve these goals does depending on what country you’re in,” he added. “This is why we create partnerships and exchange agreements with business universities in different parts of the world; it provides our students with opportunities to gain a better understanding of business cultures.”

Creating Well-Rounded and Globally Aware Individuals

For local students born and raised in Jacksonville who have never traveled overseas, being able to choose from a variety of global programs and initiatives is life-changing. Whether they choose a short-term study abroad program or join a club on campus that has an international flavor, they will learn and grow from these experiences.

Kwai and the rest of the faculty and staff at JU work hard to provide these opportunities to students and ensure the programs are set up correctly and in the best interest of all who experience them. For Kwai, grooming students who can successfully work with people from different cultures as well as potentially work for someone from a different culture means the university has done its job in creating well-rounded, globally aware individuals.

“This international aspect of learning and growing should be an integral part of who we are as a university,” he said, “and we’re dedicated to seeing that we continue to grow as a global learning institution.”

For Zacchari Gale, the adventure that started in 2014 continues …

My study abroad experience in Scotland jump-started the way I approach life and embrace it. Since that trip I’ve been to Iceland, Italy, Chile and Argentina, and I returned to Scotland with my brother and stayed with the family I got to know the first time I was there. It was very emotional for me, going back to that special place and being able to share that experience and those personal connections with my brother.

I’m not afraid to explore and learn from those experiences. I see things with a broader perspective. We are all human. In every country there are unique, special people who you can relate to in different ways. I question my ideas more because I know there are so many viewpoints out there. I see the world differently now. I feel more connected as a human being, not just as an American.