What are you doing for your summer vacation? I love to listen and learn about travel. Education is available all over the globe, and, at Fort Hays State, one of the creative ways we fulfill our mission to help transform minds and advance futures is by providing experiences in other countries.

This past year, I marveled at Student Body President Adam Schibi’s exploration of our world. He studied last summer in London at the London School of Economics – a great experience for an accounting major like Adam. Over the winter break he traveled to Italy with his younger sister to help her begin a semester study abroad. Then, in May, he traveled with the FHSU delegation to China. Discussing his experience in China, Adam said, “It was a great opportunity to meet faculty and students at our partner institutions, learn about their culture, and see what it is like to be a Tiger from the other side of the globe.”

What an opportunity for Adam! At his age, my only international experience was stepping over the border into Canada.

I love that our students have wonderful opportunities to travel abroad – beginning in their freshman year. Some of our learning communities, such as Everybody’s Business (a learning community for freshmen from any major who have an interest in business or entrepreneurship) created innovative opportunities for students to learn more about their majors through travel. Students in this learning community had the opportunity to travel to the Caribbean to serve as interns in start-up companies. Amazing!

Students have several options to help them enhance their “world readiness.” Faculty-led programs are short-term study tours over breaks. This year, leadership studies students traveled to Belize in January while students in applied business traveled to Costa Rica and Ecuador, and graduate students traveled to Italy. During spring break, art students traveled to Germany, Prague, and Vienna. This summer, some teacher education students will travel to England and/or Costa Rica; geoscience students to Ireland; economic students to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest; health and human performance students to Italy and Greece; modern language students to Germany; nursing students to the Dominican Republic; and biology students to the African country of Senegal.

In addition to short, faculty-led study trips, our students have the opportunity to study a semester or a year through exchange programs. The great thing about FHSU exchange programs is that our students pay FHSU tuition and fees (among the lowest in the nation) while attending a different university in the United States or abroad. These experiences can really enhance an education. I once heard about a biology student who did a year exchange in Florida to learn more about marine biology. What a great idea.

We also have travel opportunities through our international partners, including China, Germany, Paraguay, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom, and not just for students. Faculty also have the opportunity to travel. Through the faculty exchange program, our professors share their scholarly expertise, foster research relationships with their international colleagues and increase their cultural knowledge. For example, faculty traveling to China this summer presented their research on a wide variety of topics, including bat sensory ecology; teaching communication skills to children; adapting to western writing expectations; business aviation around the world; enterprise risk management in banking; precision agriculture; the historical relationship of international trade to world and regional peace; stress reduction for college students; ethics and social responsibility; managing burnout in the workplace; and governmental response to natural destruction.

Stacey Lang, FHSU study abroad coordinator, said, “One thing is for sure – study abroad can transform a student even in just a few weeks! The transferrable skills obtained and the personal development that a student undergoes while stepping out of their comfort zone is so rewarding to witness. It truly does impact them academically, personally and professionally.”

I really appreciate the fact that we offer strong support for students and faculty who choose to travel. That support includes scholarships and financial aid, information sessions, assistance with all of the paperwork that goes along with traveling, and, most importantly, helpful advice and enthusiastic encouragement from those who have traveled before them.

Traveling is indeed a deep, exciting learning opportunity. Aimee Johnson graduated this May with a degree in communication studies with an emphasis in public relations and advertising. She is spending her summer working for a public relations firm in Barcelona! Aimee said: “Traveling abroad can only teach me more about myself, and I am incredibly ready for that experience. I desire to explore other cultures and to learn about life outside the United States. I see traveling as so much more than a stamp on my passport. Everyone can gain something from being outside their comfort zone. I am ready for this experience.”

Our faculty and students are traveling, sharing, learning, growing and modeling what it means to be a world ready Tiger!

 Tisa Mason is president of Fort Hays State University