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International Education Month: Programs and people fuel campus internationalization at FSU

International Education month at Florida State University kicked off Monday, Nov. 1, and for the next four weeks the university will celebrate the international influences FSU enjoys and those it casts across the globe.

As much as any year in recent memory, there's a lot worth celebrating.

Internationalization at FSU doesn't happen on its own – it's a stated goal. It starts with the university's desire to create a campus that is globally and culturally sophisticated and ensures its graduates are ready to succeed in an increasingly globalized world.

Above all, FSU's internationalization is an interdisciplinary effort involving dozens of programs, organizations and people. This work melds academic, cultural, technological and personal elements to ensure the university's internationalization effort continues on its award-winning trajectory.

Internationalization at FSU starts with a belief that is shared across campus said Cindy Green, director of the Center for Global Engagement (CGE).

"International students and scholars make significant academic contributions to FSU and enhance the university's cultural diversity and that enriches our learning environment," Green said. "They serve as leaders in our community, conduct exceptional research, serve in teaching roles and infuse our campus with unique perspectives."

"International students and scholars make significant academic contributions to FSU and enhance the university's cultural diversity and that enriches our learning environment. They serve as leaders in our community, conduct exceptional research, serve in teaching roles and infuse our campus with unique perspectives." – Cindy Green, director of the Center for Global Engagement

While COVID-19 put a crimp in this dynamic, Green said life is returning to normal.

This fall, CGE welcomed 568 new international students to campus from 83 countries and areas, making this the largest number of new, incoming international students to arrive to FSU. Of these new arrivals, 118 were admitted in prior semesters and studied remotely due to visa delays and travel restrictions.

At CGE, all students can access a diverse catalog of programs, including socially driven offerings like the International Coffee Hours held Fridays at 5 p.m. Coffee hours typically draw 250 to 300 members of the FSU community to CGE's home in the Global and Multicultural Engagement Building, appropriately known as The Globe.

CGE's more academic pursuits include the Global Citizenship Certificate. Tanu Kohli Bagwe, acting GCC program director and teaching faculty, said the certificate is a pathway to learn about culture and the world through coursework, intercultural events and sustained experiences.

"Each experience in the certificate serves to develop a holistic, interlinked set of skills needed to become an empathetic individual, a critical thinker, and an advocate for multiculturalism and inclusion," Kohli Bagwe said.

Programs like Global Exchanges offer students the opportunity to study at one of FSU's more than 40 international partner institutions located in more than 20 countries while paying FSU tuition, earning FSU credits, and using their financial aid.

Graduate student Savannah Mikus participated in an exchange to Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan in spring 2020 while pursuing her bachelor's degree in Chinese and Japanese Culture & Language.

"My exchange in Japan allowed me to engage in field research and work with professors from around the world," Mikus said. "I was able to discover my passion for research and uncovering Japanese history. I realized I had a passion for research and teaching and wanted to share knowledge and understanding with others."

FSU's innovative GradWorld initiative is a spot where just such knowledge sharing happens. Housed in The Graduate School, it also happens to be a web-based initiative that sits at the intersection of FSU's internationalization, providing a platform for the work of FSU graduate students, researchers and faculty to be viewed by a global audience.

Graduate student Savannah Mikus participated in an exchange to Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan in spring 2020.
Graduate student Savannah Mikus participated in an exchange to
Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan in spring 2020.

Launched in 2019, GradWorld looks similar to Google Earth and displays personalized videos uploaded across a number of departments and colleges on campus for the purpose of showcasing graduate student research and achievements. Videos are produced in English and the researcher's native tongue.

Graduate Policy Program Coordinator James Beck helped create GradWorld and said one of the aims of the site is to help present work in a more engaging fashion.

"It's a way of them doing something different and creative," Beck said. "They can use their videos to offer a short bio or explain journal articles, master's theses or doctoral dissertations in a way that might be more engaging than just straight text."

Beck said GradWorld also serves a valuable role as a portal through which a global audience of potential research collaborators, perspective employers and interested students can learn about FSU.

"One of the benefits we've seen is that it allows prospective students to really drill down and find a specific degree program or maybe look for student videos of students from their home country," he said. "They can find all sorts of useful information there about FSU and then maybe be inspired to come here."

Beck said that since its launch, more than 300 videos representing 40 countries and 72 different degrees have been posted to GradWorld.

In the realm of bricks and mortar footprint, International Programs at FSU operates three European study centers and another at FSU's campus in Panama City, Panama. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down programs from March 2020 until January 2021.

IP Associate Director Louisa Blenman said enrollment has bounced back in programs for Fall 2021 and exceeds pre-pandemic levels with 419 students participating at the university's three European study centers in Valencia, Spain; Florence, Italy; and London.

"We are thrilled to have record enrollments at our European study centers this fall and our summer applications are on track for a banner term too," Blenman said.

Blenman said a patchwork of shifting local, national and international pandemic measures made running the programs difficult as lockdowns lifted.

"Restrictions, mitigating measures and lockdowns varied across countries and over time, so it was a constant challenge to stay on top of the rules and regulations for the host countries and the United States," she said.

"Our teams in Tallahassee and abroad did impressive work to provide meaningful, integrated intercultural experiences in the midst of very challenging circumstances," she said. "The students were fantastic; I'm so proud of them. They exhibited resilience, creativity and perseverance to make the most of their time abroad. Those who participated in spring and summer programs will certainly have unique experiences on which to draw as they continue their academic and professional endeavors."

FSU's London Study Center celebrates its 50th anniversary of operation this year. That comes about a year after FSU's Florence Study Center moved into its new home in the renovated Palazzo Bagnesi Falconeri, a Rennaissance-era, 37,000 square-foot space located in the heart of the city.

Blenman said there's more good news to share as FSU's Panama campus and its study abroad program are set to resume in-person operations.

"Higher education there just received approval from the Panamanian government to return to face-to-face operations," she said. "So this spring will be the first time they are going back since March of 2020. I know our Panama students, faculty and staff are very excited to return to campus."

For more information visit, global.fsu.edu/iem.