For a student, “study abroad” can conjure up images of lengthy airplane flights, semesters overseas and an envy-worthy Instagram game.
For Katie Radande, it means just another day at the office.
Radande is one of two advisers in Lehigh’s Study Abroad office, where she works with students to select, apply to and prepare for their trips.
Although the office has experienced some structural changes and a key departure over the past year, Radande said the number of students traveling abroad has only increased.
Radande’s position is one of several rearranged within the Study Abroad office. Prior to this fall, she met with students across all of Lehigh’s colleges. Along with fellow adviser Katy Rene, she was part of the study abroad team whose list of advisees was only based on students’ last names. One day they might meet with an engineering student, the next with a finance major.
Starting last semester the process became more streamlined, with each of the three advisers reassigned to a specific college. Students in interdisciplinary programs such as IBE and CSB would be supported by the office’s assistant director.
“The goal was for each adviser to work more specifically with individual students,” Radande said. “It’s still the same goal, but for an individual college.”
Now, the advisers meet almost entirely with students in their designated college, which she said allows for more attention to that college’s graduation requirements and perquisite classes.
Today, Rene is the adviser to the College of Business and Economics and Radande advises the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The latter has historically seen the lowest percentage of its students travel abroad.
For the class of 2016, only 30 percent of its engineering majors took part in a study abroad experience. Although this number is larger than in past years, it still falls short in comparison to the 50 percent of College of Arts and Sciences students who took a trip abroad.
Given the high number of students from Arts and Sciences who travel abroad each year, the office could have found itself struggling with the departure of Lorraine Roth at the start of the semester.
Roth, who had been a study abroad adviser with Lehigh since 2014, was accepting a position to work with a study abroad organization elsewhere, a move Radande was congratulatory of. Roth had been adviser to the College of Arts and Sciences, and had established a rapport with her past students.
Eden Weinflash, ’17, met with Roth for two separate trips abroad. Roth initially introduced Weinflash to the summer abroad program in Ireland and also helped the senior decide on a semester-long program last spring.
“I ended up finding a child development program that fit my interests better, but I wouldn’t have found it without (Roth’s) help,” Weinflash said.
Roth’s departure meant her students were now looking at a new mentor for any last-minute questions before their spring trips. It also came just as students began preparing to submit their applications for summer abroad trips.
Radande said the two programs that draw the largest number of applicants take place over the summer, between the Iacocca International Internship Program and the faculty-led intersession courses. Both she and Rene admitted this time of year can see long hours for the study abroad staff.
Despite losing the adviser of the largest college at Lehigh, Radande said the office has not lost momentum when it comes to accommodating its mentees. She now advises half the students in the College of Arts and Sciences, with Rene sharing the responsibility with her.
Although she said she now meets with more students on a daily basis, she doesn’t think the change was all that dramatic. She also doesn’t believe the students she now advises were greatly impacted by the change in leadership.
“It was just a shift for everyone,” Radande said. “Everyone reorganized to accommodate, and we just adjusted as needed.”
Although study abroad numbers are usually calculated after a class graduates to accommodate the different trip times and lengths, the past few years have shown steady improvement. Forty-three percent of the class of 2016 traveled abroad, which was the highest ever.