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Office Uses Coffee Chats to Encourage Study Abroad

By Siqi Liu and Hellary Y. Zhang, Crimson Staff Writers

Since the beginning of the semester, the Office of International Education has used a new coffee chat program to reach out to students in Harvard’s 12 undergraduate Houses in the hopes of attracting more students to study abroad programs.

Nicole M. Garcia, assistant director at OIE, said the coffee chat program is geared toward both students who have returned from term-time study abroad and students who are interested in studying abroad.

Students who wish to participate in the program can reach out to student advisers at OIE and set up meetings in coffee shops in Harvard Square.

“For the return students, the idea is they come back and have to adjust to the pace of Harvard,” Garcia said. “So it’s an opportunity to recognize that they’ve had this wonderful opportunity and they’re coming back to enrich our communities.”

For students who are planning to study abroad, coffee chats can present an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with a student adviser, allowing them to ask personalized questions.

“I thought they were really helpful in understanding what each individual’s need is,” Kia C. Turner '16, a student adviser for OIE in Leverett, said. “Choosing an abroad experience should be really personalized based on what your academic interests are [and] why you want to go abroad.”

OIE has focused on reaching out to students in the Houses for the program. Each House has at least one student adviser who helps program outreach events and can serve as a resource for the students.

Brianna J. Suslovic '16, an OIE student adviser in Winthrop, said many students have approached her with questions about study abroad.

“Being visible in Winthrop House as someone students can go to with questions about study abroad is really fulfilling,” she said. “The way we are doing all of this outreach now makes a big difference.”

Turner said she has been able to direct outreach efforts in Leverett House through panel discussions, drop-in hours, and study breaks.

“The advisers do all kinds of programming in the Houses,” Garcia said. “There’s a timeline they follow from semester to semester in terms of what happens inside their House.”

Aside from the scheduled activities, she also noted that the advisers can come up with new ideas every year.

Kathryn R. Klingle ’17, a student adviser in Eliot, was able to host a “study abroad Stein Club” last fall funded by Eliot’s House Committee. Klingle also said she has been invited by Eliot’s advising team and tutors to table at career fairs.

For Turner, the most meaningful part about being a student adviser for OIE is helping students see the vast benefits of studying abroad.

“I think there is a feeling on campus that people don’t go abroad, they can’t go abroad, they shouldn’t because there’s amazing professors and people here,” she said. “But I found that I ended up loving this place even more than I did before I went.”

—Staff writer Siqi Liu can be reached at siqiliu@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Hellary Zhang can be reached at hellary.zhang@thecrimson.com.

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