assistant director of International Studies, says between 45 and 50 percent
of Wesleyan students spend at least one semester studying abroad.
Assistant Director of International Studies Helps Students Make the Most
of their Study Abroad Experience
|Q: Gail, how many
years have you worked at Wesleyan?
A: It will be 14 years in November. I started working at Wesleyan as a
long-term temporary administrative assistant in 1993, first in Academic
Affairs and then in the Office of International Studies. I became the
permanent OIS administrative assistant in October 1994 and was promoted to
assistant director in 1999.
Q: What is the main purpose of the Office of International Studies?
A: Our primary work is to oversee study abroad at Wesleyan. We work with
students, faculty, administrators, and program providers to ensure that
students participate in substantive educational programs while studying in
other countries. We are also involved in the internationalization
initiatives on campus, and our office oversees the application and
nomination process for a number of post-graduate fellowships and
scholarships including Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Luce, St. Andrews, Keasby
Q: What percentage of Wesleyan students study abroad and at what point in
their undergraduate career do they go?
A: Between 45 and 50 percent of Wesleyan students study abroad at some point
in their undergraduate career, which means that between 300 and 350 students
study abroad each year. This does not include those students who study
abroad in the summer months. Most students go abroad during their junior
year, although a few sophomores and first semester seniors are part of the
mix. We encourage students to start thinking about study abroad in their
frosh year, because they may need to start a new language or continue with
one they have already begun in order to participate in their program of
choice. We like to start working with a student a year or so before the
planned period of study abroad. This gives the student time to review all
the programs and narrow his or her options to make the most out of their
study abroad experience.
Q: How do you publicize study abroad and the OIS?
A: We hold a study abroad fair every fall semester which gives students the
opportunity to meet with program representatives from the options on our
Approved List. This yearís fair will be on Monday, Sept. 17 in Beckham
Hall in the new Usdan complex. In addition to the fair, we hold study abroad
information sessions throughout the academic year, including sessions
specifically tailored to groups within the general student population.
Q: In which countries can students study abroad?
A: Our Approved List of programs includes 140 options in 40 different
countries. Wesleyan has four administered programs in Paris, France;
Regensburg, Germany; Bologna, Italy; and Madrid, Spain. Many programs
require proficiency in a foreign language, but there are also programs for
students who do not have a second language. More information is on our
Q: Have you personally visited any of the programs?
A: Yes. Iíve visited programs in Denmark, England, Ireland and the Czech
Q: How do you stay in touch with the students while they are abroad?
A: We communicate mostly through e-mail. We send them several letters each
semester, updating them on campus news and providing them with information
they will need at various points during their time abroad as well as when
they return to Wesleyan. We require that each student send us a postcard,
and award a prize each semester for the most outrageous one.
Q: What are the benefits to studying abroad?
A: Students who study abroad face the challenges of adapting to a different
culture, different teaching styles, and different modes of assessment.
Students on programs taught in a foreign language have the opportunity to
improve their language skills dramatically because they are living in the
language. Students who go on English-speaking programs also face adjustments
as they acclimate to a new culture and different academic expectations. For
many students, this is the first time they have been abroad and the
experience has lasting effects on how they view themselves in the world.
Q: How do you prepare a student for going abroad, and returning?
A: Once students have selected their programs, we encourage them to become
familiar with the countryís political, economic, and social issues by
reading on-line newspapers. We also recommend that they see movies, read
books, speak with someone who is from or has been to that country, and in
general learn as much as possible about their destination before they go.
All returning students must complete an evaluation questionnaire about their
programs and these are available for students to read as they prepare for
their study abroad experience. We hold pre-departure orientations at the end
of each semester for the students heading out and a Re-Entry Workshop when
they return. We remain in contact with returned students to help them use
their abroad experiences in future endeavors.
Q: Where is the Office of International Studies located and when are drop-in
A: We are located in 105 Fisk Hall. Our drop-in hours are 10 a.m. to noon
Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
Students who cannot come in during these times can make an appointment to
meet with me, Carolyn Sorkin, director of International Studies, or Caitlin Zinser,
our administrative assistant.
Q: Where did you attend college?
A: I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in English
and secondary education.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I enjoy needlework, flower gardening, attending Center for the Arts
events and watching sports. I'm a fan of the Boston Red Sox and the
University of Connecticut Womenís basketball team. I also love to watch
figure skating. I see a skater execute a triple Salchow and think, 'I wish I
could do that!'
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection