A Tenured Perspective on Education Abroad: Interview with Jeff Rogers

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Dr. Jeff Rogers (pictured third from right) is a professor in the German Studies program as well as the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for the Modern and Classical Languages (MCL) department. He is shown above in the Alps with some students from the Intensive Intermediate German program he led in the summer. I sat down with him recently and asked him a few questions about EA and how he pushes students to have an experience abroad.

Do you recommend Education Abroad programs for all MCL students?

Yes. [Laughs.]

Just yes?

Yes, we want everybody to go abroad! It’s a fundamental experience, especially if you want to emphasize foreign language or culture studies. We want everybody to go abroad. We realize that not everyone can go abroad, but we strongly encourage everyone to find some way to spend at least some amount of time abroad.

How would you say education abroad enriches a student’s education or aids the language acquisition process?

There’s a number of different levels. In terms of language acquisition, the twenty-four hour immersion experience is different than anything you can get in the US. That’s not to say you can’t learn a lot and become very proficient here in the United States, but you’re going to be in situations that are difficult to replicate, and you will experience the language in a more authentic environment. In terms of other things, they’re sometimes hard to quantify, but learning how to negotiate a foreign culture and how to be flexible, as things are not going to work as you’re used to them working, are skills that will help students and are transferrable in lots of different ways. People tend to come back having  a better understanding of who they are because it’s forced them to confront what’s important to them.

So, they’re more independent?

Yes, yeah. Much more independent and much more mature, or you know, broken down mad-person… [Laughs.] No, no, I’m joking. We don’t have that. No one regrets it.

You’re the DUS for the MCL department. Is it difficult to find classes that come back as transfer credit here? Is that usually an easy process?

It’s very easy for American study abroad programs. If there’s a program that UK sponsors and other American universities run, they tend to always offer courses that look very similar to American offerings. It becomes more difficult when students enroll directly in the target culture or university, but we bend over backwards to find credit. We actually have two new courses on the books that are simply ‘study abroad’ courses, so those students will just get credit for ‘Study Abroad – Heidelberg’ or ‘Study Abroad – Kyoto’ or wherever they were.

Did you ever study abroad?

Yes. I studied at Gymnasium in high school, so I spent a year abroad, and I studied abroad in college. Worked abroad, too, and sort of studied abroad with that in so far as I lived in Berlin and attended classes, but I didn’t actually bring credit back because I didn’t need to. I hung out at the Free University in Berlin for a year. [Laughs.]

Are you active in Education Abroad here at UK? Have you led programs here, apart from being the DUS? You led the Intensive Intermediate German program I went on last summer, but have you led programs other than that?

I have at other universities, not here, but I would say I’m active in promoting. I usually visit the lower level language classes and promote programs, and we lend support and are very flexible at figuring out ways to transfer credit because it’s not always a black and white process. We do lots to support [EA]. I have other colleagues who do more of the work of setting up and running programs like that.

Any last thoughts?

I think it’s one of the most important things that students can do. I think it is one of those things that used to be fundamental to college education, but as we educate more people and as college becomes more expensive, people don’t want to do it because of the expense and so forth, but finding some way to make it possible even on a limited basis can be very enriching.

Sarah Warren is a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in German.