Elon University hosts N.C. Study Abroad Re-entry Conference
North Carolina Association of International Educators' annual Re-entry conference hosted at Elon University.
By Natalie Zagorski '20
Elon University hosted the 2018 North Carolina Association of International Educators (NCAIE) Study Abroad Re-entry Conference on Saturday, April 7. This collaborative conference brings together students from across the state to reflect on their study abroad experiences.
This event highlights the importance of going through the re-entry process, allowing students to share their stories including the challenges and benefits of studying abroad. Throughout the day, various sessions covered diverse topics including the experience of reverse culture shock, the discovery of intercultural skills enhancement and the incorporation of global experiences into résumés and job interviews.
In addition to educational sessions and personal and professional development workshops, the conference included the “Two-to-Tell” competition. The day opened with short student presentations in which the student is given two minutes and six PowerPoint slides to tell their global story. Conference attendees voted on their favorite presentation – first place earned a prize of $150.
The 2018 winner of the Two-to-Tell competition was Elon junior Gabriella Fies. “I decided to participate in the Two-To-Tell competition because it seemed like the perfect platform to share a short story of my time abroad in Indonesia,” said Fies. “I tried to use pictures that drew on moments I found most meaningful while in Indonesia.”
Her presentation included images of her homestay bedroom in the village of Kerambitan in Bali, her research advisor Bapak Sudarta, and a “post-eruption” Mount Agung.
The winning presentation was given in the form of excerpts from journal entries that Gabriella kept while abroad. “It is now October 18 and my friend Amy waves goodbye as she reminds me to, ‘help people back home respect our religion because we only have respect for theirs,’” wrote Fies.
“I found this competition to be the most productive part of the conference,” Fies said. “It allowed individuals two minutes to share the moments that mattered most to them and provided a meaningful space for people to work through a lot of transitional feelings.”
Zoe Budsworth, a sophomore at Elon, attended the conference as an international student ambassador. For Budsworth, the N.C. Study Abroad Re-entry Conference was enlightening, and the experience provided her with tips on how to adjust to life in the U.S. after studying abroad. “The afternoon sessions I attended taught me a lot about service abroad and international education,” said Budsworth. “This conference has made me want to explore International education more and all the possible careers within it.”
This is the first time that the NCAIE N.C. study abroad re-entry conference has been hosted at Elon. University of North Carolina Greensboro hosted the conference from its debut in 2013 until last year. “When NCAIE needed a conference host for 2018, I thought Elon would serve as an excellent site,” said Allegra Laing, NCAIE past chair. “We have a strong commitment to global engagement and we are centrally located within the state.”
Laing, a study abroad coordinator at Elon’s Global Education Center, served as the chair for NCAIE from March 2017 through March 2018. In this position she fostered the goals of the organization at the state level and served as a resource and mentor to other board members. A key to success in this position is the ability to be sensitive to and aware of international education concerns, something that Laing has understood here at Elon. “As an international educator, I strongly believe that we can better serve our students when campuses work together,” said Laing.
Students from across several institutions in North Carolina attended the conference including Saint Augustine's University, Meredith College, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Guilford College, University of North Carolina Greensboro, East Carolina University, Durham Technical Community College and Hamilton College.
“It was wonderful to see so many students from schools across North Carolina discussing re-entry,” said Maria Papapietro, study abroad coordinator. “The effects of study away experiences on students often ripple through an entire lifetime, and opportunities like these allow students to tell their stories in meaningful ways. We hope that through this conference, students will view study away as the beginning of a lifetime of global engagement.”