You’ve decided the focus of your study abroad program, chosen a destination, and ideas are flowing. Now, how do you keep the momentum going throughout the program development process? We’ve asked three international education program developers to share roadblocks they’ve faced and how to overcome them.
Meet our experts: Dr. Brandon Cromer, Biology professor at Augusta University; Mayumi Nakamura, Interim Director of International Programs at Randolph-Macon College; and Jenny Burkholder, a Study Tour Coordinator with 20 years’ experience at FTI.
What are some roadblocks you’ve experienced in the program development process? How has your organization overcome them?
CROMER: The biggest roadblock that we face in planning is usually cost. We always have grand plans of seeing everything, but when the first quote comes, we always have to start cutting out items. It’s good to have an idea in advance of which components you definitely want to keep. It’s also helpful to ask your service provider if they have ideas for activities that would reduce the cost, but still enhance your program.
NAKAMURA: One common roadblock I see is not reaching out to providers in a timely manner. Some faculty may come up with a guess for costing by looking something up online or using a past experience. But this doesn’t take into account that rates change, or they may be different for a group vs. an individual.
There’s a reason the steps in our proposal timeline are set the way they are. In fact, we’re going to require a payment schedule as part of the final proposal, so we know the faculty leaders have contacted a provider & that their payment deadlines work with ours.
“...many venues have a limited number of time slots for groups that are booked months in advance. If you try to change your itinerary late in the game, you’ll often lose the opportunity to do an activity.”Jenny Burkholder
BURKHOLDER: Unrealistic budgeting & last-minute changes are the two roadblocks I see the most. Leaders who use the same budget year after year are ignoring the fact that costs increase for a variety of reasons. For example, Brexit has impacted prices in the UK. That’s not something we can control.
They also may not be aware of airline fuel prices or special events going on in the area that can affect availability as well as pricing. So, even if you’re repeating a program, always talk with your travel provider before putting your budget together.
Last-minute changes are a serious problem. New program planners don’t realize that many venues have a limited number of time slots for groups that are booked months in advance. If you try to change your itinerary late in the game, you’ll often lose the opportunity to do an activity. We do our best to offer excellent alternatives when this happens, however, better advanced planning would prevent this problem entirely.
How to Avoid Roadblocks
- Identify your must-have components to prepare for budget adjustments
- Ask your provider to identify activity alternatives that fit your goals & budget
- Reach out to providers early to secure accurate pricing
- Stay abreast of what’s happening in the region
- Avoid last-minute changes
We hope you enjoyed the this installment of our “Ask the Experts” series. If you missed the previous posts, take a look at:
- Part 1 – “Advice for Choosing a Study Abroad Destination”
- Part 2 – “Advice for Developing New Faculty-led Program Proposals“
- Part 3 – “Advice on Faculty/Student Ratios for Short-Term Programs“
- Part 4 – “Pros and Cons of Multidisciplinary Study Abroad Programs“
- Part 5 – “Creating Authentic Study Abroad Experiences”
- Part 6 – “Tips for Keeping Study Abroad Costs Down”