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Archive for the ‘Study Abroad’ Category

In late 2014, President Obama announced that the United States would be charting a new course on Cuba. The news was warmly welcomed by proponents of education diplomacy who had been advocating for improved policies to support U.S.-Cuba relations for a decade. To mark the one-year anniversary of the president’s historic announcement, NAFSA launched the NAFSA Cuba Engagement Initiative, building on the organization’s longstanding focus on Latin America and Cuba, and redoubling its commitment to the use of academic partnerships for the United States and Cuba to more effectively engage with, and learn from, one another.

As international educators, we are proud to see exchanges featured so prominently as a key diplomacy tool for improving relations between Cuba and the United States. Despite these administrative advancements, the president can only act within the bounds of the law, which means that these policy changes are regulatory only. Our new era of normalization cannot be made permanent until Congress acts to repeal the embargo and end the travel ban to Cuba for U.S. citizens. As international educators work tirelessly to build sustainable partnerships between U.S. and Cuban institutions, the laws that dictate our policies undercut our efforts. We cannot be a globally engaged United States while the outdated embargo on Cuba is still in place.

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As relations between the United States and Cuba continue to thaw and meaningful ties between both countries are strengthened, many believe that we’re on a glide path to full normalization. In less than two years, the Obama administration has issued five rounds of regulatory changes to ease travel and trade with Cuba. Embassies have reopened in each country. Cuba has been removed from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism. Bipartisan congressional delegations, business leaders, and even the president, have visited the island in hopes of further cementing normalization.

Proponents of education diplomacy are commended on a job well done. Ten years of continued advocacy by NAFSA, our partners, and the larger coalition advocating for normalized relations with Cuba, paid off. We in the field of international education got everything we could possibly want, right?

Not quite. Not yet.

While President Obama’s administrative measures and bold leadership have heralded a new era of U.S.-Cuba relations, long-term, meaningful ties will only be sustained by changing existing laws, which requires action from the U.S. Congress. Despite the progress of the past two years, the 50-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba remains law and makes facilitating meaningful educational exchanges unnecessarily difficult. Though the president has relaxed restrictions, he can only do so within the bounds of current law. Should the next president have differing views on U.S.-Cuba engagement, he or she can still undo all of the progress that’s been made to date.

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U.S. academic travel to Cuba was decimated by severe executive branch directives in 2004. Consequently, most study abroad programs conducted by American institutions in Cuba shuttered, effectively abandoning one of the only avenues of understanding and collaboration that existed between our two countries.

The resulting 92% plummet in U.S. students studying in Cuba proved nearly fatal for Cuban exchange programs. The few programs that managed to remain open following the restrictions limped forward until January 2011, when NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the academic exchange community, and the larger coalition won a historic advocacy victory with the Obama Administration’s executive action to restore academic travel.

students in cuba line graph

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Amanda KelsoBy Amanda Kelso

This past July I had the opportunity to attend NAFSA’s Strategic Retreat for Education Abroad Leaders in Washington, D.C. Like most full-time administrators, my days are filled with a steady stream of e-mails, meetings, and crises (both big and small), making it a struggle to reflect on and discuss big-picture ideas. The prospect of a two-day retreat with colleagues to focus on and discuss strategy was appealing.

In preparation for the retreat, we were assigned to read four articles in which the authors challenged us to rethink the definitions of “global learners” and “global learning,” a challenge echoed by Neriko Musha Doerr in the retreat’s keynote address. What followed was innovative and inspiring, and completely different from the typical education abroad workshop.

Each participant came to the retreat looking for something different, and as the retreat drew to a close, it was evident that each would leave with equally diverse outcomes. I came away from the retreat with a richer vision of how education abroad fits into the shifting landscape of global higher education, as well as new ideas and pathways to explore to ensure that the global programming in my care meets the needs of 21st century learners. These insights will certainly inform my work at Duke and as a leader in NAFSA’s Education Abroad Knowledge Community.

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By María José Angel Mex

As an early Christmas present last year, I was appointed by NAFSA as a consular affairs liaison to the Italian consulate in Houston, Texas. At the time, I had an idea of what my responsibilities would be, but I knew I still had a lot to learn. This proved to be true earlier this year when I attended NAFSA’s consular affairs liaison (CAL) training in Washington D.C, along with the 40 other members of the  CAL Subcommittee.

You might be wondering what exactly CALs do. To put it briefly, we try to help. CALs belong to country groups (France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the “World-at-Large”;) and represent the education abroad (EA) community to one of the consulates of those countries in the United States. We gather as much information as possible from our consulate and share it with the EA community, primarily through the Visas for Education Abroad section of http://www.nafsa.org.

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With new tools providing greater understanding of the motives for student mobility and what drives students to seek out educational experiences abroad, international education professionals now have the unique opportunity to better anticipate where the next educational destination will be.

To help uncover what 2015 holds for the student travel market, NAFSA invited Atle Skalleberg, CEO of StudentUniverse, a technology company that empowers students and youth to travel, to share his company’s insight on what their data is telling them about trends to expect in the coming months.


What growth do you expect in the student travel market in 2015? What will be the largest driver fueling the growth?

Student travelers are critical stakeholders in the tourism industry and are sometimes overlooked as airlines focus on current business travelers. In reality, students make up 20 percent of all arrivals in the travel industry today. By 2020, more than 300 million student-related arrivals are expected, a number that will represent a quarter of total tourism. By the same time, 50 percent of all business travelers are expected to be millennials.

One of the key drivers fueling the growth of student travel is international specialty travel. Education travel leads the pack, and we see new markets coming online as well as continued growth from emerging markets such as China and Brazil. These students also travel a substantial amount within their destination country.

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Julie FriendBy Julie Anne Friend

First, a disclaimer – I’m a lawyer, not a doctor, so the purpose of this blog post is not to provide medical advice, but to reference verifiable medical information and how it can be used to support your risk management strategies, as well as communication efforts, in managing a real or perceived health crisis.

Ebola hemorrhagic fever and I go way back. We first met in 1995 while I was a graduate student in Lusaka, Zambia. There was an outbreak of Ebola along our northern border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire). Three hundred and fifteen people died in a village called Kikwit. It was big news, but I can’t really recall how. There were no cell phones, no Internet, and certainly no Twitter. E-mail existed, but access was sporadic and cumbersome. I think I learned everything I needed to know from CNN. I don’t remember being alarmed or afraid. I was right there – well, nearby – and I was not at all afraid.

That remained true for me even during the latest outbreak, which reached our shores but only in the most negligible way. And by negligible, I don’t mean to make light of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan or the transmission of the virus to four others, all of whom remain alive (the five others treated in the United States contracted the disease abroad, for a total of 10 cases). But compared to the tragedy playing out in West Africa – 5,165 dead with a fatality rate of 53-85 percent (depending on the source) – a more compassionate and less fearful reaction would’ve made more sense, particularly on campus.

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