The University’s study away program provides life-changing experiences for students.
Madeleine Wilcox smiles and takes a deep breath before diving into just some benefits of participating in the University’s study away program.
“Coming to Jefferson you have a lot of amazing opportunities,” she explains. “But our campus is larger than East Falls and Center City. Our campus is the world. You experience your major in a new setting and expand the possibilities of what you can do—as a professional and a person. You grow your network, meet new friends and mentors, see different places, gain inspiration and communicate across cultures.”
Of course, Wilcox may be a bit biased (and rightfully so). As Jefferson’s director of International and Domestic Study Away Programs in the Office of Global Education and Initiatives, she has spent years growing and fine-tuning the University’s 30-plus offerings, from semesters in Italy for architecture, to short courses in China for fashion, to the occupational therapy ambassador program in Morocco.
Wilcox and other members of the University community detail what sets the Jefferson program apart and why every student can gain an advantage by studying away.
While abroad, students shouldn’t expect mountains of beach time or partying their days away. “These are rigorous courses with professionals in the country,” Wilcox says. “They have high expectations.”
Jefferson’s Nexus Learning approach of crossing collaborative, real-world learning with a meaningful infusion of liberal arts allows students to leave the classroom and work with leading international experts and firms.
For example, fashion majors at the Jefferson Rome semester study with Italian stylist and costume designer Antonella Buono, and industrial design students partner on projects with local German businesses while on exchange at the Köln International School of Design. Students in Nexus Abroad’s global economy course have visited the Mumbai Stock Exchange, Consumer Unity and Trust Society of India, and Kochi Tea.
“They’re collaborating with faculty, seeing local businesses and historic sites, drawing sketches and conducting interviews,” she says. “A lot of projects are meant for them to engage with their host culture and their chosen profession.”
The seriousness of Jefferson’s study away program makes it distinct, agrees Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This reflects the kind of students we have at Jefferson. These are students who have direction.”
Demonstrating the program’s substance, 27 Jefferson students and four faculty members traveled to Morocco and Spain this past summer for 10 days of intense fieldwork. The interprofessional group of entry-level occupational therapist (OT), occupational therapy assistant (OTA) and couple and family therapy (CFT) students volunteered in a community clinic for children with disabilities, visited an orphanage, spent time with older adults in memory care units and worked with women undergoing treatment for cancer, all while advocating for their respective professions and providing client education. Beyond that, the students traveled to historic mosques and bazaars, rode camels and enjoyed traditional dance and music shows.
“We live in an international world,” says Monique Chabot, assistant professor of occupational therapy. “The best way to understand where someone comes from and to find commonalities is to experience their culture—not just as a tourist but as someone who earnestly says, ‘Teach me about your world.’ It changes you. You come home and see things in a new way.”
OTA student Julia Sablom calls the fieldwork a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allowed her to better understand Moroccan and Spanish cultures and how these environments impact occupational performance. She also benefited from the opportunity to collaborate with OT and CFT students.
“I’m so grateful for all the lessons I have learned and all of the memories I have made,” Sablom says.
Other students share similar transformational stories of their time away from Philadelphia. Architecture student Andonis Hughes says exploring Rome, Florence and Venice made him more appreciative of art and allowed him to take his work to the next level.
“Studying abroad brought out my inner creativity and pushed my style of design,” adds fashion design student Allison Moore, who also traveled to Italy in spring 2019. “I could focus and push myself as a designer. It will forever give me a different outlook on my designs and way of thinking.”
Physician assistant studies student Mariah Pease says her semester in Costa Rica fueled her desire to continue learning Spanish to better help the community. “I want to become a PA that makes every patient feel confident and comfortable,” she says.
Jefferson features a portfolio of study-away options to meet every student’s need and schedule, Wilcox says. Some spend up to a year abroad, while others with less flexibility due to athletics or an internship or job, may opt for a short course over winter or spring break. These 10-day trips cover the world, such as Paris for fashion, Havana for global economics and Costa Rica for biomimicry.
The University regularly hosts workshops to help students find the right program, guide them through the process and address any potential barriers. Students and their families sometimes worry about the cost, but Wilcox says Jefferson strives to keep the program as economic and seamless as possible.
Aside from additional travel expenses, the tuition and housing generally run the same as a traditional semester on campus, and financial aid does transfer. In addition, study away won’t delay graduation, she says. “It’s not time off.”
Jefferson’s study away program began decades ago, and it continues to change and improve with each passing semester. Since the 2017 merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University, for instance, more graduate students have enrolled in study away, Wilcox says. Some popular options include the MBA program to London and the fashion design management program to Milan.
In the coming years, Wilcox sees more opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations and majors that haven’t traditionally participated, such as the STEM fields.
She believes study away enhances every major at Jefferson and gives students global experience and perspective that makes them stand out.
“Students who do study away develop those soft skills employers want,” Wilcox stresses. “They can work with people from many different environments. They have cross-cultural competencies. They’re independent. They’re able to handle new locations. A line on a resume that says ‘study away’ tells a story.”
University Creates Jefferson Center for Global Engagement
While Jefferson’s commitment to providing a rich international experience for students and faculty isn’t new, the standardization of our approach to Jefferson’s international work and global priorities is. Enter the creation of the Jefferson Center for Global Engagement (JCGE), where we’re working daily to grow our sustainable, high-impact collaborations with leading international institutions to enhance all of our programs.
Under the leadership of Kathy Gallagher, Jefferson executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Daniela Ascarelli, associate vice president of global engagement, the JCGE includes:
- A Study Away Program that offers more than 30 global opportunities for students and faculty to experience the world beyond the borders of our campus and country.
- An International Affairs Office that facilitates the exchange of ideas, scholarly work, related research, education and patient care approaches with members of the international community.
JCGE collaborates with other global initiatives across Jefferson, including:
- Country Centers in India, Israel, Italy and Japan that create unparalleled academic experiences for students and faculty and strengthen our global relationships.
- Global Academic Partnerships, such as the Jefferson Consortium for African Partnerships and activities in Latin America.
“The programs and alliances formed by the Jefferson Center for Global Engagement with like-minded and visionary partners continue to propel us towards our vision— becoming an international destination and resource for education, research and clinical activities,” says Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and the Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean of Sidney Kimmel Medical College.