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Our Commitments

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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.

Inclusive Excellence

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. 

Individualized Learning

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.

Intercultural Agility

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, 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.

Enduring Impact

How do we provide students with experiences that accelerate and deepen learning, so they have significant and lasting impact? By maximizing opportunities for learning in everything we do, from student engagement to program design to alumni support.

Meaningful student experiences do more than enhance learning—they also shape lives. That’s why it’s important for our teams to think about what happens after study abroad and be ready to help students use their experiences to springboard into meaningful lives after college.

Intangibles only go so far

For years, this has meant helping students recognize and highlight the abstract skills they develop abroad—self-confidence, independence, problem-solving ability, resourcefulness, communication, and of course, intercultural understanding, appreciation, and agility. Indeed, employers and community influencers generally associate study abroad on a resume with strength in these areas—but stating them isn’t the same as demonstrating them.

Meeting employer needs

Study abroad can tell an even more complete and compelling story. With the right elements in place, our programs become opportunities to add the concrete skills and knowledge today’s employers need and look for, including:

  • Language competency
  • Leadership skills
  • Hands-on experience completing meaningful projects, through internships, group business challenges, and the like, with coaching that ensures students internalize lessons

Study abroad programs with these components are not only geared for more significant career impact, they make it easy for students to show employers the value of their experience, simply by sharing their resumes.

Some of our programs—including IFSA Career Accelerators—already include these elements. And as we design new programs and improve existing offerings, we’re looking for opportunities to incorporate more of these skill-builders, making study abroad even more valuable and giving students still more tools to lead the purpose-filled lives they envision.

For sure, it’s exciting to think of the doors that will open for our students and the meaningful impact they can make in our communities and workplaces with this comprehensive set of skills.

See it in Action

We know we’ve done our job well when we hear from students like Sarah Buchlaw, a University of Puget Sound student who completed one of our Argentina programs, and wrote to share this news.

“As a community organizer for a progressive Jewish organization, I help organize the Jewish community for racial and economic justice through issue-based campaigns. For my campaign—Decriminalizing Communities—we work with other marginalized communities to transform the public safety and immigration systems. Doing this work, I have realized that I want to be a therapist. I’m specifically interested in couples and family therapy, which examines how family systems and systems of oppression shape us. Your Human Rights in Argentina class was critical to my development as a student and my current interests.”