A Promise That Sets Us Apart
There’s more to study abroad than exploring new places.
Preparing students to make meaningful contributions doesn’t happen by accident. That’s why we weave in a commitment to success in four areas — inclusive excellence, individualized learning, intercultural agility, and enduring impact — through every part of the study abroad process.
At IFSA, we consider where your students come from, not just where they are going. Welcoming people of all communities, identities, and abilities enriches our discussions and enhances study abroad for everyone.
From creative funding to individualized support, our approach gives access to more students, ensures that students choose program locations with personal identity in mind, and removes the barriers that stand between them and a transformative experience.
When we work hard to engage the whole student, acknowledging the diverse identities and abilities they bring to our learning communities, everybody wins.
See it in Action
Students come to us with different backgrounds, identities, strengths, and needs. We provide the individualized support that’s essential to their success, using our Appreciative Advising framework. Lillian Read, former IFSA Institutional Engagement Director and now an IFSA consultant, explains:
When I hear, “I’m an LGBT student. Where can I go that’s safe for me,” it triggers a discussion of what safe looks and feels like to that student, as we explore how to pursue their goals. We also offer identity-specific information about each location to help students select programs and prepare for the first steps of their journeys.
No two student journeys are alike, which is why we tailor support to meet each student’s needs. From first interaction through program completion, we help each student pursue their academic, personal, and professional goals.
This starts far before students step on a plane. Each student meets with an IFSA advisor to articulate these goals into learning plans. These plans give us a fuller understanding of our students and their individual strengths, so we meet students where they are, using their unique qualities to fuel growth and learning.
It’s a holistic approach, limited only by each student’s curiosity and interests, and it enables students to both achieve goals and grow in unexpected ways.
See it in Action
At IFSA, holistic, appreciative support means students get the experiences they want for their futures, even when it calls for creativity. Sian Munro, IFSA Resident Director, New Zealand, explains:
A premed student asked if she could shadow a doctor. When we found this wasn’t possible at her location, her IFSA advisor partnered with the student and host university to find an internship in a music therapy program instead. The result? Lessons she will eventually use to enhance her practice by easing her patients’ anxiety.
Meaning and value come from cultural immersion not typically found with conventional travel. That’s why our trained staff provide so much more than health and safety support and logistical guidance.
Having staff on-site all over the globe plus an intentional approach to engaging students through reflection makes a difference. Whether students are in London or Lima, they have opportunities to explore, understand, and articulate cultural differences — and similarities — in meaningful ways. This gives them skills they can continue to use long after their study abroad program ends.
See it in Action
With IFSA, the challenge of adjusting to cultural norms becomes an exercise in intercultural agility, as Lara Azzola, Custom and Collaborative Programs Manager and former IFSA Resident Director in India, explains:
A student was outraged after watching her host grandmother sit on the ground and wash her elder son’s feet. Why couldn’t he wash his own feet? Why make his elderly mother do it?
Together, we considered the event through different cultural lenses, and we met with her host grandmother to talk about it. I suspected the grandmother was participating in a religious ritual, but refrained from telling the student, knowing she would gain so much more by learning this on her own. Indeed, she discovered that to the grandmother, the purification ritual is a sign of her authority in the family.
More importantly, the student learned to spot her own cultural lens and gained strategies for exploring cultural differences that she can take anywhere.
How do we provide each student with experiences that accelerate learning, so they accomplish in weeks and months what others aspire to achieve in years? By maximizing opportunity for lifelong learning in everything we do. This underpins every decision, as well as our approach to student engagement, program design, and alumni support.
Study abroad is inherently fun. Add IFSA’s commitment to intentional engagement, and you get meaningful experiences that last a lifetime.
See it in Action
Navigating a new culture isn’t always exciting and fun — but it can always involve learning. IFSA Field Director Kira Rysiewicz explains:
A student from our Work-to-Study Marketing Correspondent program had just returned from South America and wanted to write her reflection project on harassment she experienced there. In her first draft, she wrote about hearing catcalls and being stared at on the subway by men. After discussions with me and our members of our Health & Safety team, each draft she wrote took on a deeper, richer understanding of her own identity and the cultural frameworks behind human behavior.
The process gave her valuable time and support to reflect, explore, and grow. In her latest email, she wrote that even after experiencing some of the most intense challenges of living abroad, she would return with IFSA again and again.