For the fifth year in a row, Texas A&M continues to lead as the top public institution for sending students abroad. During the 2018-2019 academic year, A&M was reported to have 3,768 students take part in study abroad programs pursuing academic credit.
While those studying abroad have been forced to adjust since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aggies are still appreciative for their past and present experiences around the globe with A&M.
Education Abroad Regional Director for Africa Jack Elliot, Ph.D., has supervised study abroad trips across Europe and now directs the Namibia study abroad program. Elliot said he believes A&M earned this title due to the supportive staff who promote study abroad opportunities.
“We have a faculty that understands the value of the global experience for students,” Elliot said. “We have found that employers have a high desire to hire people that have that global, broad, culture awareness, and so we play off of that as well.”
Brooke Wooley, Class of 2019, traveled to Spain in the summer of 2019 and said her own study abroad advisors were influential throughout her application process and trip.
“My advisors were amazing in planning my roadmap for my trip and overall gave me constant support throughout the whole process,” Wooley said. “It made travelling abroad seamless and organized.”
Elliot said he thinks the spirit of A&M is a unique factor of the school’s study abroad experience.
“If you think about the Aggie Spirit, sometimes that sets us apart because we always take an Aggie flag, and almost every study abroad trip that I see has an Aggie flag and they take pictures around the planet,” Elliot said.
Since Wooley’s study abroad trip, she found she grew more self-reliant and prepared for life after college.
“Studying abroad affected my life after college because it gave me a different sense of independence,” Wooley said. “If it hadn’t been for my trip to Spain, I would’ve had less confidence in making the move to Austin after I graduated.”
Wooley said what made her study abroad experience special was the people she met in Spain alongside her fellow classmates and teachers.
“The family I lived with were the sweetest, most welcoming people I could’ve asked for,” Wooley said. “The classmates I met during the trip I still keep in contact with to this day, and the teachers were just amazing too.”
Reflecting on the Namibia study abroad program Elliot led back in March near the start of COVID-19, he said though travel was restricted, there are more opportunities for students to study abroad virtually and still remain engaged.
“In reality, I didn’t think it would be as effective, but it was absolutely one of the best educational experiences I ever had as an instructor,” Elliot said. “It blows me away what we could do.”
Wooley said she encourages Aggies to take the leap of faith and study abroad, even if it might seem impossible in some situations.
“It might seem far fetched or unreasonable given certain circumstances to study abroad, but A&M has so many resources you can utilize to make it happen,” Wooley said. “There’s only a small window of time where you can study abroad, so take the chance while you can and soak up every moment.”