Every day, the world becomes more and more interconnected, making it essential that high-achieving students can embrace a global culture of learning from their very first day at the College of Charleston.
Born out of cooperation between the Honors College and the School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs (LCWA), the International Scholars Program began in 2012 with the requirement that all participants double major in both international studies and any second major. Each international scholar must be an Aiken fellow and participate in required courses and cohort experiences, including May Away, an all-expenses-paid trip at the end of their first year to places such as the Republic of Georgia, India and Cuba.
International scholars benefit from academic mentoring from faculty as well as professional mentoring from members of the LCWA advisory board, giving them the opportunity to build their professional network.
According to Honors College professor Bryan Ganaway, “The rigorous transnational cultures of learning provided by the International Scholars Program offers the best outcomes for students.”
These outcomes can be seen in what the students achieve during their time at the College, such as earning nationally competitive awards like the Fulbright Full Grant (Eden Katz ’16) and the Gates Millennium Scholar program (Joseph Quisol ’16).
Upon graduation, these students go on to enroll in illustrious graduate programs and dream jobs.
Take, for example, Malcolm Kates ’16 and Sarah Ford ’17 (pictured above).
A native South Carolinian, Kates came across the International Scholars Program when he first toured the Honors College. He liked the way it complemented his other area of focus – biology – with a goal of going into medicine.
“The International Scholars Program played a substantive role in my education,” says the Swanson scholar. “It helped me fill the gaps in my résumé and seamlessly integrated into the Honors College as a whole, so I didn’t have to juggle my schedule or obligations.”
He also developed close connections with faculty.
“Professor Ganaway spent a lot of time with each of us starting our freshman year,” says Kates. “It was such a tight knit, small cohort that I felt comfortable asking for advice.”
That closeness helped Kates overcome his concerns about studying abroad.
“I had never left the country, and I was concerned that my lack of experience would cause me to lag behind when we went to Cuba for our May Away,” Kates explains. “I found that wasn’t the case – that, regardless of experience, everyone has a lot to offer.”
Being an international scholar helped Kates open doors he may not have explored. For example, in between his first and second years at the University of Florida College of Medicine, he conducted research at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He also became involved in a program in the Dominican Republic, where his medical college has a partnership with Universidad Católica Nordestana.
“My experience as an international scholar gave me the confidence to provide medical care in a different environment,” says Kates. “It gave me the ability to collaborate easily with colleagues from another culture and provide the short-term help my colleagues need to provide their patients with sustainable, long-term care.”
In contrast, Ford came to the College of Charleston because of her interest in languages and culture. She applied to be an international scholar because she knew she wanted to work in a global context. She liked that it required a double major and that it made her look at everything through an international lens.
When the Virginia native arrived at CofC, she chose computer science as her second major.
“My interest in technology was a way to reach my goal of working for a large global firm with people from different backgrounds – and, ultimately, work abroad,” explains Ford.
She first got the chance to experience learning in an international setting when she went to Istanbul, Turkey, for a semester to study at the College’s partner institution, Bahçeşehir University.
“I was the only student from CofC to go to Turkey,” says Ford. “I felt I was thrown into the deep end, but I realized that what I was experiencing was real life. I learned how to apply for a visa and find a place to stay – all things my German classmates did without a thought. My time there really taught me independence.”
Ford attributes her international scholars experience to her success in the tech world. The languages she learned – French, German and Turkish – showed that she had other interests, which appealed to hiring companies. She ultimately landed a job with Accenture, a multinational technology company that operates in more than 120 countries.
“Every day I use my international scholars experience,” says the senior technology analyst. “I am creating a global integration system covering 10 countries and that requires understanding different cultures and norms to make it work.”
Kates and Ford are representative of the success of the more than 30 graduates of the International Scholars Program. Currently the number of international scholars admitted each year is limited to 10. Part of the Drive for the 250th’s Global Leadership Institute initiative is to expand the number of international scholars admitted each year by increasing the number of scholarships.
“The International Scholars Program prepares CofC students to succeed on a global scale through international experiential learning,” says Ganaway. “Their international experience and intercultural competency will position them to take their career anywhere.”