Last year, only about 2 percent of University of Kentucky students traveled outside of the United States for a study-abroad program.
The man who's trying to improve those numbers understands why. Anthony Ogden, the director of UK's Education Abroad program, was himself a first-generation college student from Shepherdsville who could barely imagine himself getting a degree, much less earning part of it in a foreign country.
Many students don't believe they can financially afford studying abroad, think it will delay graduation, or simply don't think about it at all.
But Ogden and his staff are trying to change perceptions by making more affordable programs more accessible.
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They hope to reach 5 percent of students, and by the end of this school year, 637 will have chosen to study abroad. About 589 participated last year.
"I never thought I'd end up back in Kentucky," said Ogden, who has been in his current job for two years. "But I really believe our students must grow with international skills and attitudes that will help them be effective in the global marketplace."
Ogden uses himself as a case study for the benefits of going abroad.
"I had never been out of Kentucky when I went to college, and when I graduated (from college), I'd been to Indiana and Maine," Ogden recalled.
Just after college, his adviser at Berea College suggested that he apply for a government-run program in Japan. He moved to a small village in western Japan where no one spoke English. He soon learned Japanese.
"All of a sudden I realized there was a great big world out there," he said.
He ended up working and studying in Japan, Southeast Asia and Africa. Along the way, he returned to the United States to earn a master's degree and two doctorates in education theory and international education.
One of his first jobs at UK was reducing the number of expensive programs touted to students, trying to make the offerings more strategic and less expensive.
"We have to remove those traditional barriers," he said.
Ogden's office found and developed programs that are aimed at students' majors, so studying abroad won't delay graduation.
For example, UK-sponsored programs allow students to go abroad during the summer. The classes are taught by UK faculty. Students earn full class credits but pay only one credit of tuition. This summer, for example, UK faculty will teach music and Italian in Arezzo, Italy.
UK students can also choose exchange programs at different universities around the world. Participants pay regular UK tuition — about $4,500 for an in-state undergraduate — to swap places with a foreign student for a semester or a year. There are also more traditional programs, operated by different schools abroad.
Ogden said his office's efforts have been helped by the financial support of Provost Kumble Subbaswamy, who first came to this country as a student.
And expansion has been helped by a $1 increase in a student fee. Every student pays $6 a year, which goes directly into a scholarship fund to help UK students study abroad. Education Abroad also has a group of student ambassadors, who help other students find their way through the maze of offerings.
Courtney Lynch is one of those ambassadors, and she, too, understands why UK students find it hard.
As a first-generation college student, Lynch first talked to her parents about the idea of studying in another country. "It was a foreign concept," she said, "and I think a lot of students have that experience."
She has now studied in Germany and Spain and may take a fifth year abroad as well. The UK office has helped her work out different scholarships and fellowships.
"It was scary, but you never know how far you can push yourself," she said. "It makes you so much more of a rounded person. We live in so many bubbles and we assume so many things. But when you go abroad, you realize how connected we all are."
Ogden is trying to build up better statewide support for study abroad. He is working with the UK College of Education to develop a master's degree in international education, and he has put together a statewide advisory group, the Kentucky Council of Education Abroad, which is holding its first meeting at UK this week.
"We want to start networking and share best practices," he said. "More and more students realize this is something they need to do."
For more information on UK's Study Abroad program, go to http://abroad.ad.uky.edu.