CHICO – The study abroad program in Chico State was recently honored as the best study abroad program.
According to a press release from Chico State, the Institute of International Education has recognized the university as one of the most active and engaging higher education institutions in the United States in its class to engage in study abroad. In the latest Open Doors Rankings for the 2019 and 2020 academic year (the most recent year for which data is available), the Institute of International Education ranks Chico State’s Study Abroad and Exchange Program as No. 5 in the country. Two locations from last year, for master’s colleges and universities, with 59 participants studying abroad for a year or more.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a recent gap between students studying abroad.
“We have paused in international mobility since the pandemic hit, but we are slowly but surely reopening,” said Chico Study Abroad and Exchange Program Coordinator Ximena Ospina. “The health and safety of our students comes first. We have a social responsibility with countries and make sure that decisions are not taken lightly.”
Ospina said there are 30 students from Chico State currently studying abroad and another 30 will start in the spring semester. There are also a few scheduled travel for the short-term January program.
Some of the popular countries that students visit are Peru, countries in Western Europe, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan.
Ospina studied abroad by herself.
“I can speak from personal experience. I went to Chico State for university studies and studied abroad.
Ospina has also worked as a study abroad advisor at Sacramento State.
“In my own experience, Chico State has done a great job. They include information sessions and make sure that information is shared to students.
Gradually, Ospina said, the study abroad program is booming again.
“We are very optimistic, the world is still suffering, but there are a lot of cures happening and more vaccinations. I hope the numbers will reach 300 again and slowly open up,” Ospina said. Reopening our doors and ensuring the safety and health of students.”
Ospina said Chico State is doing a great job helping students achieve their study abroad goals.
“Chico State is distinguished by its deliberate and conscious programming, before, during and after studying abroad.”
Students who study abroad and work at the university as advisors or interns often return to study abroad.
“They got paid front desk jobs. They do the information sessions. We have desks for students to come and talk,” Ospina said.
Students studying abroad these days must adhere to vaccinations and a mask.
“Some countries are tougher,” Ospina said. “Masks are required if indoors. Some countries are also more relaxed. We make sure students are protected. We don’t want them to be hospitalized.”
Ospina said that her colleagues play a big role in the success of student travel.
“Dr. Jennifer Gruber, Head of International and Educational Engagement, has done a fantastic job. We wouldn’t be able to do this in Chico State without faculty. Advisers, financial aid representatives and registrars are all integral to helping students study abroad,” said Ospina. “.It is an academic opportunity. It is a foundational experience for academic and professional development.”
The study abroad program also assists students coming to California from international waters.
“We’re dealing with students coming to California,” Ospina said. “We have international education and global engagement. We have one unit that I oversee. We are all collaborating.”
Ospina said that before students study abroad, they should do a lot of research.
“It’s key for them to have a plan and be prepared to accept the unknown,” she said. “They should attend the directive and with the pandemic they should be aware of everything regarding vaccines and hiding mandates and quarantine. They also need a level of respect for that country’s culture and to practice safety and kindness. They are there as a guest and they should be interested in the culture and be sensitive.”
Chico State Senior and Animal Science Vanessa Mendoza studied abroad in Costa Rica in the spring of 2019. She now works as a Program Assistant/Front Desk Clerk at the Office of International Education and Global Engagement.
“The Chico State Study Abroad Program was very helpful in my study abroad process. They really did their best to make sure I traveled abroad. There were some hurdles before I left and I almost went abroad because I didn’t think that was possible, however, I My study abroad advisors took the time to guide and reassure me that it was the right decision for me,” Mendoza said in an email interview.
Prior to studying abroad, Mendoza made sure to take advantage of preparing to study abroad.
It is the community of Chico State that sets it apart from other schools’ study abroad programs, Mendoza said.
“I think this is why so many students travel abroad because our campus community does a great job of helping students and connecting with students to participate in their programs/events. Students, especially first generation students, are looking for connections on campus that allow meaningful connections to happen. This gives them a sense of belonging.This plays a huge role in students’ success and specifically their participation in the study abroad department, she said.
Mendoza embarked on the study abroad program before the pandemic, so she didn’t have to worry about vaccine and mask mandates.
“However, I know that currently in Costa Rica there are strict protocols, for example, people cannot go out to the streets late at night or they will be fined. They also allow some people with license plates to drive on certain days,” Mendoza said.. It’s somewhat confusing, but the best way to describe it is that they take serious precautions to protect the public.
Mendoza has some solid advice for students looking to study abroad.
“I would advise the students to seek restlessness, do not set your limits, live in the moment and live ‘pura vida’ as they say in Costa Rica,” she said.