The GO Difference
By Nick DiUlio
When it came time for him to embark on a two-week-long adventure in Japan last Spring, Jake Stamatis was, in a word, terrified.
Growing up in the small town of Tunkhannock, Pa., Stamatis wasn’t what one would call a world traveler. When he enrolled at Susquehanna in 2009, the most exotic place he had ever visited was Disney World. And as he prepared to board his plane for a journey to the other side of the planet, the thought of experiencing life in a country as far-flung as Japan seemed almost inconceivable.
“I’ll admit I was really scared. I was afraid of the unknown, afraid of the language barrier, even afraid of flying. It was a big step for me,” says Stamatis, a senior music performance major. “But I’ll tell you what, I came back having faced all of those fears. And I am a stronger man for it.”
Like every other undergraduate at Susquehanna, Stamatis set out last spring to fulfill the Global Opportunities (GO) program, which guarantees that all students will have a study-away experience before graduating. Implemented in 2009 by a new Central Curriculum, GO affords students the opportunity to study in dozens of countries on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. And upon returning, they enroll in a reflection course specifically tailored to each trip’s academic and personal-development goals. It’s a program unlike any other in the country, and the experience is often life changing.
For Stamatis, that experience took place during a 10-day residency at Japan’s Niigata University, on the northwest coast of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. There he studied chamber music with Japanese students and professors. After that he spent six days traveling through some of Japan’s most remote and metropolitan regions, where the aspiring opera singer learned about Japanese culture by immersing himself in the country’s society, cuisine and language.
“My GO experience has done great things for who I am both academically and personally,” says Stamatis. “I tackled a language barrier, a culture of traditions thousands of years old, and food that was completely foreign to me. And when I returned, part of my reflection course taught me that if I can handle that, I can handle anything the American ‘real world’ throws at me.”
Susquehanna Earns Most-Coveted International Education Award
Susquehanna University has managed to internationalize its campus in just a few short years and claim a prestigious award for its accomplishments. The university has won the 2013 Andrew Heiskell Award for Internationalizing the Campus, presented by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in recognition of Susquehanna’s Global Opportunities (GO) program and other related initiatives.
The Heiskell awards honor the most outstanding initiatives in international higher education, in five categories, among more than 1,100 IIE-member campuses. “For a university, winning a Heiskell is like winning a Nobel; it means you’re the best. And Susquehanna received its award for excellence in Internationalizing the Campus, the toughest category,” says Mark Scheid, president and CEO of The Institute for Study Abroad. “This distinction clearly places Susquehanna among the top U.S. universities in the field of global education.”
Scott Manning, director of cross-cultural programs, says the award “confirms our belief that every college graduate should be able to enter the workforce with cross-cultural skills based on experience. At Susquehanna, we believe this is absolutely critical to the success of our graduates.”
Susquehanna is among only a handful of schools to guarantee a study-away experience for all students, and its post-travel reflection course is unique. The university has also increased enrollment of international students by 35 percent in the past year, and added essential services such as a scholar-mentor program, managed by the Center for Diversity and Social Justice, which trains juniors and seniors to help international students adjust to their new home.
GO’S SUCCESS BY THE NUMBERS
Donned in sashes indicating their travel destinations, the Class of 2013 will take the stage in May for Commencement, knowing they share a special bond: Every one of them has been transformed over the last four years by a cross-cultural experience.
They entered Susquehanna in 2009 as the first class to be guaranteed participation in Susquehanna’s model study-away program, Global Opportunities (GO). The numbers tell the story when measuring the program’s success to date:
Average Percent of Students Having a Cross-Cultural Experience
14%—American Students in General
30%—SU Students Before GO
100%—SU Students After GO (with 89% of those students studying internationally)