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Ball State University’s study abroad program sees increased interest, expanded travel itineraries

By Katherine Hill, The Daily News | Published on in The Daily News
Ball State students jumping for joy on the Communication + Culture Ecuador trip in summer 2022. Ashley Coker, Photo Provided.

Ball State University Director of Study Abroad Ashley Coker has one mission: give Ball State students the opportunity to immerse themselves in different cultures.

“My favorite part of my job is helping students make the connections they need in order to have that experience,” Coker said.

During the 2024  summer semester, the opportunities to study abroad are abundant for the first time post-pandemic.

“We have students going on 35 different experiences this summer. 15 of those programs are Ball State faculty-led,” Coker said, highlighting The Miller College of Business’ upcoming trip to Italy will explore the different facets of international marketing.

“We have professors from every college at the university and many departments who are offering field studies,” Coker said.

Second-year French education major Lilly Miller is currently in Grenoble, France, through April 27 as part of an intensive language program trip offered by the university. Miller, who is currently teaching English in France, took up the study opportunity while earning her English as a second or foreign language certificate.

“They have a ton of programs on there — [from] year-long programs [to] semester-long programs or even shorter ones for over breaks,” Miller said.

Miller encouraged other students to utilize similar, upcoming opportunities this summer, calling it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“You get to make new friends, [and] explore a new area, while still completing a semester and getting credit for it,” she said.

Studying abroad was something Miller wanted to do even before coming to Ball State. Now, actively pursuing the chance to do so, she said she has learned a lot, both personally and on a global scale.

She said her French has “improved exponentially” in only a matter of weeks.

First-year political science and legal studies double major Gracie Hamilton is excitedly awaiting her summer study abroad trip. As a part of her anthropology course, she will travel to Ireland, Bosnia and Croatia.

“I love to travel and hope to refine my resumé in political knowledge,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton is getting a head start in her studies abroad, hoping to implement what she learns into her future international politics career.

“My trip is in collaboration with the Virginia Ball Center. A significant part of the cost is covered by them. Without their contribution, I wouldn’t be able to finance the trip,” Hamilton said.

The variety of available trips is only expanding, especially with the influx of student interest post-pandemic.

“All things considered, we have well over 300 students [in] the academic year who have studied abroad this year. That’s compared with last year, I think we sent fewer than 100 students out total the whole year,” Coker said.

Ball State students fishing abroad in Ecuador in summer 2022. Ashley Coker, Photo Provided.

However, those numbers only account for estimated student interest.

“When it comes to faculty participation, that [increase] really took me by surprise,” Coker said.

Last year, the study abroad office offered five or six faculty-led trips abroad. This year, Coker and her team saw an influx of 20 interested faculty members ready to lead a trip. While many are first-timers abroad, most are returning travel veterans.

“I wasn’t prepared for how many different faculty members of the university would be so excited to again offer a study abroad program,” Coker said.

The opportunities make Ball State’s Study Abroad Advisor Annika Vinje, “excited for the students, but also jealous.”

Vinje stepped into her position in February and said passionate students like Miller are what excites her about the job.

Vinje also said she is seeing many — not just students— take advantage of the opportunity to travel abroad largely on impulse.

“College is a very special time in your life,” Coker said. “It’s the one time in your life that you can spend significant time abroad without having to clear it with your employer, your romantic partner, kids at home, etc.”

Even if the timing doesn’t seem right, Coker’s ultimate advice is not to wait.

“There’s a big misconception among students that study[ing] abroad needs to wait until your last semester or the fall of your senior year, but that’s not true,” Coker said. “ Oftentimes, study abroad programs are designed for students who are earlier on in their college career.”

Coker and her team are committed to eliminating any financial barriers students might face to prevent such experiences from becoming a reality. To make trips more affordable, the study abroad office creates low-cost programs by partnering with different providers to develop cost-effective itineraries.

“It’s a big group project, and it’s something I think the study abroad office is thrilled to be spearheading, but we are certainly not doing it alone,” Coker said.

Those interested in learning more about Ball State’s study abroad opportunities can visit the program’s website or visit its office in the Student Center, room 102, to meet with a peer ambassador.

Contact Katherine Hill with comments at katherine.hill@bsu.edu