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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 12, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 11
JHU's Academic Travel Agent

Lori Citti, in the Office of Study Abroad's temporary home in Garland, says that her position and office will offer a more comprehensive way to advise students.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Lori Citti checks in as first director of the new Office of Study Abroad

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Each year, hundreds of Johns Hopkins undergraduates temporarily trade in Homewood campus life for an enriching, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experience in a foreign country. Now they have some extra support and quality control for that academic jaunt overseas.

This summer, the university created the Office of Study Abroad, an entity that will oversee study abroad programs for the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, and hired Lori Citti to be its director.

The office currently resides in Garland Hall but this January will move into a permanent facility in Levering Hall that will serve as a central hub for information on study abroad programs offered by Johns Hopkins, partnering universities and other organizations.

Previously, Ruth Aranow in the Office of Academic Advising handled study abroad programs on a part-time basis. However, a faculty committee, convened this past spring to examine study abroad issues, concluded that a full-time director and a centralized office would better serve the university.

John Bader, associate dean for academic programs and advising, said that Aranow had done an "outstanding job" given her limited time and resources, but the university wanted a person and office devoted to study abroad programs.

"As a major university, it has seemed somewhat behind the times to not offer such directed services, as nearly all of our peers do," Bader said. "With Lori in place, we feel we can now develop a more vetted and focused list of programs overseas, in terms of rigor and quality, and provide better support of our programs. This new office can give study abroad a higher profile."

Bader said that the new office will also address the needs of natural sciences and engineering students, a population that doesn't traditionally take part in study overseas.

"Generally speaking, they don't think about how the international experience fits into their college life, and we wanted to confront that issue," Bader said. "In that way, this office represents a nice convergence of missions for the Homewood schools."

Prior to arriving at Johns Hopkins, Citti was deputy director of international programs for Georgetown University and previously had served as assistant director for admissions in the Division of International Programs at Syracuse University. She earned a doctorate in Russian history, with a minor field in modern East Asian history, from Indiana University, Bloomington.

In her new role, Citti offers advising, logistical support and transfer-credit assistance.

Currently, nearly 20 percent of Homewood undergraduates participate in some kind of international learning experience during their four years, and 11 percent enroll in a semester- or yearlong program abroad, typically during their junior year.

The current top destinations are Florence, Madrid, Paris and London, but JHU undergraduates have studied on nearly every continent (not Antarctica, yet), with an increasing number traveling to Africa.

In addition to the allure of living in locales such as London or Sydney, Australia, students choose to study abroad to earn credits (up to 30) toward a major, minor or degree, or for a noncredit internship experience. All students in good academic standing can study abroad in the summer or during intersession, and juniors and first-semester seniors may go during the academic year.

Citti said that the university embraces the opportunities for international education and that her position and the new office will offer a more comprehensive way to advise students.

The office in Levering Hall is expected to open in mid-January, at which time a new study abroad Web site will be launched. The office will feature a meeting room for one-on-one advising sessions and a bank of computers to research hundreds of international learning programs. It will initially be staffed by Citti, an administrative assistant and student employees who will offer peer advising.

Citti has already initiated a series of information sessions to let students know about international learning experiences, and what they need to know before they go. In her pre-departure workshops, Citti talks about basic health and safety, insurance matters, cultural transition and emergency contact information--in short, everything from language barriers to how to stretch a dollar while living in a foreign place.

Citti said that she wants to concentrate on quality, not quantity.

"One of the reasons I took this position is that the university is not focused on numbers, trying to get a certain number of students to participate in study abroad," Citti said. "Rather, Johns Hopkins wants to put forth a very solid program with a good infrastructure to deal with matters such as legal issues associated with international travel, transfer of credits to the person's academic degree or understanding the policies and procedures of the school he or she will attend."

During the student's stay abroad, the office will also be an invaluable resource, she said.

"We will be there if something happens, to provide support for their safety and well-being," she said. "Some students simply get homesick those first weeks away, or experience some form of culture shock or transition anxiety. We will be a point of contact to help the students address these issues."

Overseas study can be an extremely exciting and rewarding experience, Citti said. And even better if you lessen the stress.


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