While Loyola offers its students opportunities to study abroad at its campuses in Rome, Beijing, and Vietnam, the University also provides international students the chance to spend a semester studying right here on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The Chicago Center is Loyola’s study abroad program that introduces international students to living and studying here in Chicago. The program was initiated in 2011 by Patrick Boyle, PhD, associate provost and assistant to the president for global affairs and initiatives. Boyle says that the evolving worldwide educational landscape helped develop his idea of having Loyola host a study abroad program.
“There was a time in history when most of the strong universities were in the United States. People from all over the world would come here,” Boyle says.
However, he says in the past 30 to 40 years, most countries have developed a network of “top-notch” universities, so they do not see the need to leave their country. Even so, Boyle says some students still may want the experience of studying abroad in the United States.
The benefits of the Chicago Center are two-fold, according to Dr. Boyle.
“It is helping international students learn about the United States and Jesuit education, and Loyola students have the chance to interact with international students here on campus,” he says.
The inaugural semester started out with a small group of five international students, but it has grown to about 20 students each semester. These students live in the dorms, take standard Loyola classes, and participate in events around campus. They even take two trips a semester to other major, culturally rich cities in the United States such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.
International students choosing to study at the Chicago Center are partnered up with a Loyola host student who volunteers to be a resource point throughout the semester. Browyn Sherman, a junior majoring in theatre and minoring in ceramics, says she volunteered as a host because she wanted to help an international student adjust to the culture here, as well as learn about that student’s home culture.
“I really enjoyed getting to know my student and having discussions about our cultural differences and similarities,” she says. “I think it’s educational to hear another perspective on your own culture.”
Mike Lee, another Chicago Center host, says he learned a lot by hearing his international student’s observations on the American college lifestyle.
“It puts the experience of the “American” college life into perspective,” says Lee, a senior psychology and anthropology major. “A lot of the students mention that one of the reasons they wanted to study in America, apart from traveling, was wanting to experience the American college life. I’ve learned that our college life, as unique as it is, also has its faults.”
Both Sherman and Lee agree that a program like the Chicago Center is important to helping international peers become more comfortable with American life, as well as make those international connections.
“It not only allows for an easier transition for the incoming students, but helps build a positive relationship between individuals and bridge the cultural gap,” Lee says.
To learn more about the Chicago Center, please click here.