GUEST BLOGGER: May Challenge: I is for International Education

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

 Meet Jennifer Connor

As a child – a girly-girl for that matter – I dreamed of travel to such romanticized places like New York, Paris, London and Rome. I gravitated towards movies that took me to these places, from Disney’s The Lizzie Maguire Movie to my all-time favorite, repeat sleepover movie, The Parent Trip (sorry, the Lindsay Lohan version).

What started as fantasy, ended in adventure. I studied French in middle school and high school. Then, on a whim, decided to study Italian as a freshman at Penn State. I ran with this, taking three semesters of Italian and applying to study abroad in Florence, Italy. I had no idea that a trip that was a dream come true would be so life-changing and challenging.

Florence’s city scape – a photo I took during my
Spring 2009 semester studying there.
Though, Italy – a part of “old-Europe” and a very popular study abroad destination – would suggest an easy-breezy gourmet experience, I was surprised with how much I changed when I returned. Above all, I came back having shed my judgments about the way life should be lived. Prior to jet-setting, I’ll admit as a 19-year-old suburban Philadelphian, I placed certain career paths, lifestyles and possessions above others. What I learned in the “modern,” yet Renaissance-lingering city of Florence, is that there are many, many ways to live life – and NONE are better than another.

Today, I work at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in NYC across the street from the United Nations. Currently, we are running a campaign called, “Generation Study Abroad,” or #GenerationStudyAbroad. Currently, less than 10 percent of American students study abroad. This initiative aims to double the number of American students studying abroad by partnering with U.S. universities and encouraging undergraduates to take a semester abroad.

I took this photo from the roof of our IIE building.
To the left you’ll see the UN building and to the right,
numerous Fulbright advisers from universities around the United States.
Knowing that this blog is read more by the 20-something crew than undergraduates, your role in this is to encourage younger family members to pursue a study abroad opportunity, for one, and to at least get a passport. There’s a whole world out there of differing perspectives and I am a firm believer that if we can better understand our counterparts we have a much greater chance of achieving world peace. 

Secondly, if you feel you missed out on an international experience during your undergraduate degree OR still have a bug for travel ignited by a semester abroad, I have an opportunity for you. Specifically I work on the outreach team for the storied Fulbright Program, a program funded by the U.S. State Department and established in 1946 by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. Fulbright introduced a bill in the United States Congress that called for the use of surplus war property from WWII to fund the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the field of education, culture, and science.” Imagine that – the creation of positive, bi-national relationships steeped in intellectual exchange FUNDED by things we were using to destroy each other.

There are two opportunities for you to apply for – a year of study/research abroad OR a year teaching English abroad. I’m going to plant the seed, and let your imagination begin to run wild. Check out our website, follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook, and watch this introductory webinar introducing the new grant year.

Then, let me know if you have any questions! Via e-mail (jconnor@iie.org), Facebook or Twitter (@Journalist_Jen).

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