NC State newcomer Kory Saunders brings the perfect combination of education and experience to her role as international program coordinator in Study Abroad, a unit of the Office of Global Engagement.
Saunders manages a portfolio of semester-long study abroad programs in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and oversees faculty-led study abroad programs for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She is also the first international program coordinator to fulfill a global responsibility in the area of diversity and inclusion for the Study Abroad office.
With a B.S. in marketing and a B.A. in Spanish from Hampton University, an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and an M.A. in international business from the University of Valencia, Spain, Saunders is uniquely qualified for this dual role.
As a student, Saunders studied in Spain and Mexico, then traveled to Brazil and back to Spain after earning her degrees. Add to that a varied professional career that included stints at Newsweek, Hearst Corporation, Pearson Education, Montclair State University, Columbus State University and other positions in international marketing and financial services, and one can see how Saunders’ global perspective enables her to understand first-hand both the challenges and benefits of studying abroad, and doing so as a person of color.
Making Study Abroad An Option for Everyone
University students have been studying abroad for centuries. For example, a wealthy young Charles Darwin journeyed around the world from Cambridge University in the 1800’s to make scientific discoveries thousands of miles away from home.
However, the image of the privileged student studying abroad often prevents many students from envisioning themselves studying abroad, even though the experience can be extremely rewarding and the costs manageable.
To help combat the stereotype, Saunders began providing drop-in office hours during spring semester in two of the campus community centers, Multicultural Student Affairs and the GLBT Center. During these office hours, Saunders provides a readily available source of information for students about studying abroad and a connection for those who might not have previously considered it.
Saunders mentions many factors, some real and some imagined, that prevent students from considering study abroad, such as financial issues, lack of awareness or access, logistics such as not having a passport, challenging majors with heavy course loads, fear of missing out on campus, lack of representation, too many other responsibilities and a narrow focus on one’s degree program, among others.
Despite these potential obstacles, Saunders is quick to point out the many rewards and benefits of studying abroad, including gaining independence, confidence, a strong sense of self and a better understanding of the world and how people view the United States; developing cultural competencies, intercultural understanding and self-discipline; learning how to navigate new places, manage your own finances and communicate and interact with people who don’t speak your language; and stepping far outside your comfort zone to grow as a person.
Partnerships and Initiatives
In addition to partnering with Multicultural Student Affairs and the GLBT Center, Saunders plans future partnerships with the Women’s Center, Military and Veterans Services, the Black Male Initiative, Disability Services, TRiO and other campus organizations with the goal of working together to present programs and share resources. She cites a recent panel presentation organized by Gilman Scholar Brianna Garcia about women of color’s experiences studying abroad and another by student Mia Carmichael of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. on “Being Black Abroad” as examples of great programs on the topic.
Saunders also hopes to work on several additional initiatives in the coming months, such as expanding a program begun in 2015-16 by NC State professor of history Blair Kelley titled, “Traveling While Black,” a revamped “Will You Be a Minority Abroad? session in partnership with Multicultural Student Affairs, and social media awareness campaigns such as #studyabroadwhynotme.
“Why not? Why can’t you?” asks Saunders. Just asking the question may plant a seed in a student’s mind that could result in a life-changing decision.
Beginning the Process
Students curious about study abroad can consult the Study Abroad website to learn about the different programs offered and the details of the application process. The office also provides a “Study Abroad 101” workshop and the opportunity to meet with an advisor, as well as everything else students need to know.
Saunders would like all students as well as NC State colleagues to feel welcome to visit the Study Abroad office, visit during drop-in hours or contact her directly via email to learn more about the many opportunities available to students.