Top 5 Reasons to Write an Education Abroad Review

By Missy Gluckmann, Founder of Melibee Global (www.melibeeglobal.com)

Acting because you’re required to isn’t always exciting.  I really do ‘get’ that!

However, there is a reason that many schools and program require that education abroad participants complete an evaluation before releasing a transcript.  The good news is that there are some really positive reasons for sharing your feedback – beyond receiving your grades.

Here are my top five reasons why you should complete an education abroad review, even if you’re not ‘required’ to:

1)     Your truth can save a life

Education abroad is (or should primarily be) an academic experience.   However, the daily living realities of being abroad can feel as foreign as new skin.  Your insights into the nuances of your host city and/or country can really Female College studentimpact the lives of others who are following in your footsteps.  I’m not talking about things that seem quite important at the time of packing (‘Do I need an adapter for my hair straightener?’) but more along the variety of potentially life saving safety tips.  While it is not the norm, students have died abroad from a variety of incidents ranging from drinking too much alcohol and getting lost in frigid weather with less than adequate clothing  to drowning because of being pulled into a much stronger ocean current along the western coast of Central America.  Sharing tips with your own personal flair is what can truly save someone’s life and can be a great addition to safety tools that are available via the ClearCause Foundation.  While program advisers may write about the strength of a local ocean current in Costa Rica in pre-departure materials, reading about it from a peer who felt the overwhelming pull of the salt water and describes it as being ‘almost completely unmanageable, despite being a certified lifeguard ’ WILL resonate with future participants and their families.  Telling your peers that ‘the alcohol in the region’s pubs is 100% proof and that you really do only one third of the amount you’d drink at home before  feeling rather unaware of your surroundings’ may prevent others from putting themselves in a place of such needless risk.  Your voice carries when talking with other students.  Your voice can have that kind of power.  You can save a life by being candid in your review, while still being professional.

2)     Enhance your portfolio

Writing is a lifelong skill.  It is one that you will use in your academic  career and your job search.  Documenting your experience abroad by completing an evaluation provides a tremendous opportunity to beef up your ‘body of work’ that is available on the internet that potential employers and headhunters will peruse as they look for possible candidates for positions in their companies and organizations.  The time that you take to reflect and consider the seismic impact of an experience abroad  -and how you document that in a constructive, mature manner – may result in a new document for your ever expanding portfolio.  Potential employers are known to  ask for writing samples.  Your genuinely crafted review can serve as an sample that you’ll ultimately need in these scenarios.

3)     Reflection =  Growth

Going abroad changes you.  Coming home feels familiar but strange too – and students are typically so busy plugging back into “life” that they rarely sit down and really THINK about who they were before they departed for their host country and who they are now.  Intentionally taking time to ponder how you’ve changed and what you learned is necessary for measuring our growth.  Reflection is an art form, one that requires dedicated time and attention – and a structured set of questions to guide you.  The education abroad evaluation is an ideal way to start your reflective journey.  What was it about your program that you really appreciated? How did those well delivered (or not so well delivered) services impact you?  What would you want to change about the program and how would it impact future participants and your host community for the better?  Despite it being a ‘mandatory’ exercise in some cases, you may find that you are actually grateful for someone asking for your opinion and observing your own trajectory of growth and increased maturity.

4)     Role Reversal – You become the teacher

Part of the reason that many program administrators request or require evaluations is that they want to know what works well and what aspects of the program abroad need to be re-examined.  Despite putting a complex education abroad program together, they do not have the luxury of experiencing the program first hand as a student.  (Imagine how hard that is – crafting an exciting learning experience that involves seeing new cultures and not being able to go along with the group.  It is torture!) So, despite them preparing guidelines and tips for students prior to departure and reinforcing them in country, when you are abroad, you begin to transition to the role of ‘subject matter expert ‘ on certain aspects of the program.  You know what it is like to eat in a college cafeteria abroad every day (skip the meats but make the most of the potatoes!) or what cultural experiences are must see (the Guayasamin Museum in Quito, Ecuador is more than just a one day visit).  With this level of customized feedback in your evaluation, you’re actually TEACHING US!  What an exciting and empowering experience that is!

5)     Writing through journaling

For anyone who has kept a journal, you know the power of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and documenting your feelings, perceptions and realities in the moment.  The process of journaling is essentially documenting your life’s story, one page at a time.  The beauty of having to complete an evaluation is that you have a searchable series of life’s important memories in one place, allowing you to return to the internet to recall where your mind and body were at a specific moment in time.  Being able to jar your memory to the highs (and even the lows) of your time abroad is a simply priceless opportunity, one that you may not be able to fully appreciate until months or years later. Taking the time to review your program online may also develop into an interest in taking up journaling or even blogging.  After all, an education abroad experience is one that you will to process for your entire life.  Continuing to write about the impact of it, even decades later, is a joyful and cathartic experience.

I hope that these five tips will give you reason to pause and seriously consider how you complete a mandatory evaluation or to encourage you to consider filling one out, even if it isn’t required.  The impact truly does extend well beyond your time abroad!

 

About the Author:

Melissa Gluckmann, contributor to the Studyabroad101 Blog and founder of Melibee GlobalMissy Gluckmann is the Founder of Melibee Global, which aims to elevate the discussion about education abroad, culture, diversity and the lifelong path to global citizenship by offering trailblazing tools, speakers and professional development for the global education and travel communities. Raised in New York, Missy has lived abroad three times and traveled to dozens of countries. Missy currently resides in North Carolina and experiences culture shock there on a daily basis! She can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Using your study abroad experience beyond college

Guest Posting By: Missy Gluckmann, Founder of MelibeeGlobal.com

Commencement-mania is here! It is that timeless season when students suffer from exhaustion, senioritis, relief and Facebook photo album induced nostalgia. Family and friends appear for celebrations, money is gifted and the job search is officially underway!

Students reflect on those moments that are impossible to replicate – the first time meeting a roommate, that first cafeteria meal (who will I sit with?), and the first class that required reading books and not chapters. For some, this will also include the first time getting on a plane to experience an academic program abroad. Memories will spill over…that first academic field trip on foreign soil, when you made your first “local” friend, the day you successfully ordered a coffee in a new language, and the first time you really understood that culture makes a difference. There were endless moments of learning and many were captured in your study abroad evaluation.

Being home for some time now, you have likely experienced re-entry shock – that feeling of discomfort, awareness, re-adjustment and sometimes plain ‘ol confusion that your home country is a bit harder to understand than you ever imagined! Please don’t worry – everyone goes through some form of re-entry – whether it is the mild kind (I miss the breakfast I ate abroad every morning) to the more difficult variety (I’m feeling straight up depressed and want to be abroad again NOW!) These videos may offer some comfort as you continue to reflect on your time abroad.

And now you’re home, constantly reminded that higher education is highly revered in the US. Being able to announce the job that you landed as a result of that degree or the graduate school that you were accepted to (hopefully, with a scholarship to enhance family bragging rights) is a rite of passage. The pressure that comes with the questions you hear daily – “You haven’t gotten a job yet?” or “Where are you interviewing?”- can make diving head first under the nearest rock seem like a completely reasonable move.

However, there are perks of this “down time,” despite the challenges of defining the next chapter of your journey. Without mainstream campus culture’s requirements of all-nighter study sessions, you now have time to reflect upon your education abroad experience and to revisit your published evaluation at StudyAbroad101.com. Reading back to your program review can provide some powerful memories. You can re-examine what you learned abroad and how those lessons can help you as you consider the path ahead.

Reflecting upon your own written words from your review and your own re-entry, you are able to consider how you’d answer those same questions today. While revisiting your review, I’d recommend taking out a piece of paper (or journal, if you write in one) and asking yourself these questions:

1)    Where have I grown the most?

2)    What three words would I use to describe how I’ve changed as a result of this experience abroad?

3)    What three skills learned abroad am I most of proud? Why?

4)    What data and skills learned from academic classes and experiences abroad am I still applying in my daily life?

5)    Am I satisfied with my level of knowledge from my academic program abroad or do I wish to pursue more?

6)    If applicable, have I continued developing my host country’s language skills? If not, what can I do to move that learning forward?

7)    What critical incidents abroad would I process differently now with some time and space behind me?

8)    How have those lessons impacted who I am and how I respond under pressure?

9)    What would I expand upon in my written evaluation if given a second chance to write it?

Reflecting on your review through these types of questions provides an opportunity to develop new goals. For example, if you reached a low intermediate level of Spanish abroad, perhaps now is the time to sign up for a language exchange in your community or to take a free online language program such as at www.duolingo. Or if you’ve discovered that you really enjoyed learning about your host country’s indigenous population, you may want to explore diversity more at home through volunteering or watching documentaries on the subject from your local library.

Your study abroad review, if thoughtfully written, also creates an opportunity to market yourself during networking and interviews. For example, when someone asks you about your time abroad, you can share your reflection driven “elevator speech” and offer to share your published review to illustrate your writing and analytical skills. This dialogue also creates a natural opportunity to ask for a business card or a LinkedIN invitation.

Reflection is an art form and your skillfully written words from your education abroad review are the canvas where you chose to paint your initial thoughts of self and skill developed as a critical part of the journey of crossing cultures. As you march boldly into the world seeking a job or the next level of education, remember to use the wisdom gleaned from experiences abroad. They can be a bridge to creating more opportunities than you ever imagined!

About the Author: Missy Gluckmann is the Founder of Melibee Global, which aims to elevate the discussion about education abroad, culture, diversity and the lifelong path to global citizenship by offering trailblazing tools, speakers and professional development for the global education and travel communities. Raised in New York, Missy has lived abroad three times and traveled to dozens of countries. Missy currently resides in North Carolina and experiences culture shock there on a daily basis! She can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Abroad101 Newsletter – Late Spring 2014

 

Abroad101-reviews-logo-web

Greetings,

It’s a busy time of year those of us working in study abroad; students returning from spring semester abroad, new students for the summer term, production of promotional material for the next season of recruiting and the ritual of marketing and advertising budgets. Abroad101 looks forward to being included in each of these steps and thanks you for taking a few moments to review our progress.

Reviews are Good for Students
This is a message you’ll be hearing a lot more from Abroad101 – published reviews are good for the student! A well-written published review is a testimonial of a student’s experience abroad and should be used to the student’s advantage well after they return to campus. A well-constructed thoughtful review will give students an edge with employers, grad schools, and in other potential post-graduate opportunities. Reviews provide an opportunity to showcase the student’s writing, analytical skills and allows the student to make personal statements about the impact of their experience and personal discoveries. For the student, the power of a published review comes from both a reflection of the past and a pledge to the future. Links to it from resumes, cover letters and online profiles (like LinkedIn) should help the student better leverage the abroad experience in the future.

For the students leaving on summer programs, we suggest you include mention of the review process as part of the pre-departure orientation and in early stages of advising. Getting them thinking about reviews early in the term is never a bad idea!

Get More Reviews Through Tools in your Abroad101 Providers Account
As students complete their time abroad, we encourage you to invite them to tell their story and submit program reviews to Abroad101. Using the “invite tool” from your Abroad101 account portal is the most effective way to draw reviews as the links in our email messages make it easier for students to find their program. The system also tracks their progress sending them timely reminders to complete the process, if needed. Our invite tool produces much higher completion rates than your own email reminders or newsletters, plus using it will eliminate duplication if university advisors have already invited their students to submit a review.

Update/Bolster your Directory Listings on Abroad101: Get us Photos – “Search by Subject” is coming
Whether you participate with free or paid listings, summer is a great time to update your directory entries on Abroad101. Next to reviews, photos are the best way to improve the performance of your listings and photos of students in action are the most popular. Each listing on Abroad101 has one feature photo position; a thumbnail of the image shows in the directory and a larger version on the program page. You can upload a photo to this position and add up to 10 others for a slide show for each program through your account login/portal on Abroad101.

Today, most users navigate the site using city and country search options and links. Some users are drawn to the advanced search feature when looking for program options. This summer we will rollout a “search by subject” enhancement that will give users another tool to find programs that meet their academic area of interest. Updating your listings to include these details will help students find your programs. The directory features are available to all providers with free or paid listings.

The Student Lead API is coming
It’s been a few months since we began sending student inquiries directly to providers, and the response has been great. Student feedback has been positive too as this new process gets prospective students a quicker response. For our advertisers, soon the process will be even faster through our Student Lead API. This summer, the gateway will be opened and specs will be released detailing how you can get the lead data posted right into your CRM system when a student completes the form on Abroad101. Then, with a little bit of ingenuity you’ll then be able to auto-respond and communicate with the student seconds after they’ve sent the inquiry. That should impress students and really improve conversion rates!

Let us be Your Exclusive Review Provider
Our review management tool was designed for university advisors, but with a little modification we can make it provider friendly too. Our system is very flexible and our tech team very capable, so in exchange for us processing all your student reviews, we’re willing to offer some added features and functionality. There may be some modest cost, depending on your requirements but nobody knows review tools like Abroad101 – let us build something for you!

Did you know that over 30 universities require their students to complete reviews on Abroad101? Administrators at these universities are provided with extra tools to compare and report their students’ progress. Students meanwhile would love to have to do only one review and have it available to both the university and the provider. Our second API, scheduled for fall release will look to pass reviews to and from the Abroad101 system. It will make the single review a much smoother process and give providers a better way to display Abroad101 reviews on your website.

You can see the list of the standard set of 37 review questions here: http://blog.studyabroad101.com/2014/05/advisors-and-providers-the-abroad101-study-abroad-review-questions/

Doing our Part to Grow Study Abroad
Abroad101 is in a position to help expand participation in education abroad. By publicizing our ratings, rankings and reviews we give students and their families a sense of security in going abroad. With messaging centered on the future benefits of a well-crafted review, we will push the virtues of the international experience to employers, helping dispel some of the negative stereotypes of study abroad.

Another initiative is designed to provide direct support to students through a partnership we launched with GoEnnounce, an education oriented crowd-funding platform. The initiative sponsors one student each week, showcasing their mission to study abroad and proving them with a small amount of seed money. In turn, the families and supporters of the student will be asked to also contribute. Using reviews as an education tool, we intend to show those in the student’s direct circle some real life examples of the chosen program’s impact on similar young adults. When you see a link for our student of the week, please click it and please consider a modest contribution to help bring one more student abroad. One by one, step by step, we can build the numbers of students abroad and break down barriers that keep students from believing they can participate. Your contributions mean more than money; they are votes of confidence that ripple out to that student’s circle of support.

Your can read more about this initiative in the Abroad101 partnership with GoEnnounce press release – http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11829272.htm
or the “Crowd Funding for Study Abroad” article in The PIE News. http://thepienews.com/news/abroad101-sponsors-crowd-funding-campaigns/

Visit the Abroad101 booth (#1048) at NAFSA
If you are headed to NAFSA, please visit the exhibit hall and visit Abroad101 booth to pick up a few of the soon to be collectable Abroad101 T-Shirts. Not only will we have the usual heavy-duty men’s style, we’ll have lots of WOMEN’S cut T-Shirts. Bring some home for the interns and they’ll be sure to update those free listings!

Stop by and say hello to both Mark and Sherry Shay, you’ll find us in booth #1048 at the back of row 1000.

Advisors and Providers: The Abroad101 Study Abroad Review Questions

Abroad101 has a 37-question survey of study abroad programs that has grown to be an industry standard. This review process is required at more than 30 universities and encouraged by providers and advisors at many others. As a standard set, these questions also give advisors and providers a means to benchmark their students against that of other institutions. In the spirit of creating best practice in the field, Abroad101 offers these time tested questions as a template for anyone looking to establish a review process for education abroad, we do hope that you will use our free tool to manage this process.

To start a study abroad review evaluation visit: https://www.studyabroad101.com/reviews/new

Download a pdf copy of our evaluation.

 

Check out Forum-Nexus for great summer abroad program options!

 

 

One of the most difficult tasks of studying abroad is making a decision on where to go! There are SO many program options available, especially in Europe. If you’ve been dreaming of backpacking through the Swiss Alps, indulging in local cuisine in Italy, learning about the historical and cultural remnants in Berlin, or visiting multinational companies in Barcelona, then keep reading to learn more about Forum-Nexus and their multi-country summer programs! Continue reading