Students’ interest in study abroad spikes; UTA students set to travel to Kenya in June

Tuesday, Mar 07, 2023

By Valerie Fields Hill
School of Social Work

Eusebius Small and Karla Arenas-Itotia
Dr. Eusebius Small and Dr. Karla Arenas-Itotia

More than 55 students – far more than Social Work professors anticipated – have indicated they plan to travel to Kenya this summer to study.

The students, who represent various disciplines across the campus, have applied to the School of Social Work’s Study Abroad program. The students also attended a recent information session organized by professors who will teach during the trip.


“It’s filling up quickly,” said Associate Social Work Professor Dr. Eusebius Small, who will travel and teach during the trip. “We are just delighted that we are going to be with students in Africa.”


The high interest in study abroad opportunities at UTA mirrors increasing interest in international study seen across the nation, according to the Institute of International Education.


The Institute partners with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to document U.S. study abroad. It releases the annual Open Doors 2022-Report on International Educational Exchange.


According to the Open Doors report, 14,549 U.S. students earned academic credit for studying abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year. That figure represented a 96 percent decline in international study since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


However, last academic year, U.S. colleges and universities reported a 523 percent increase in students traveling aboard to study in the summer of 2021.


Additionally, 83 percent of U.S. colleges and universities reported an increase in students studying abroad for the 2022-2023 academic year, when compared to the year before, . according to the Institute’s Spring 2022 Snapshot.


“As study abroad remerges for American students, the Biden administration is expanding the tools available to students to provide greater affordability and accessibility for all students to ensure it reflects the rich diversity of the United States,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Lee Satterfield said in the Open Doors report.


“Study abroad is of strategic importance as we prepare American students to compete in an increasingly interconnected world.”


At UTA, Dr. Small said students who study abroad are 90 percent more likely to attend graduate school.


“So, it’s really good for your career,” Dr. Small told students who attended the study abroad information session earlier this month.


“Why are we doing this? We are doing this because we know the value of it,” said Dr. Small, who has a research interest in international Social Work. “We want to provide the same opportunity for you.”


Students will travel June 11 - July 2, 2023, to Busia County, in western Kenya. The province is home to more than 890,000 residents (about half the population of Idaho).


Kenya is the No. 1 tourist destination in Africa.


Students will live together in a rural village outside of Kenya’s largest city, Nairobi. They will interact with villagers and elected officials. They also will visit native animals, including giraffes, elephants and water buffalo in their natural habitats.


Professors acknowledged during the student information session that many western travelers hold persistent misconceptions about Kenya and other parts of Africa.


Such untruths will be debunked during their study, Assistant Professor of Practice Karla Arenas-Itotia said. She has traveled to Kenya before and will again this summer with students.


“You’ll get to see Kenya holistically,” she said. “I’ve learned the most when I’m on the road in Kenya.”


“You can see the country for what it is and not for probably what you have perceptions of. I’m really excited about that.”