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Study Abroad with MTSU

Vice Provost for International Affairs, MTSU alum, calls Study Abroad ‘tremendous opportunity’

As a young adult participating in an exchange student program at the University of Caen in France, Dr. Robert Summers had no idea the experience would lead him to his career and ultimately back to his alma mater.

Twenty years after graduating with his master’s degree in French, Dr. Summers returned to MTSU as Vice Provost for International Affairs in 2020.

“MTSU really played a pivotal role in my professional career,” Summers said, calling his participation in the university’s exchange program “one of the best professional decisions” he’s made.

“Studying abroad is one of the things that helped me get where I am, and that’s what I want for our students,” he said. 

In his current role at MTSU, Summers is responsible for the international enterprise on campus, from bringing international students to study at MTSU to helping send students on study abroad programs and other international experiences.

MTSU’s Study Abroad Program

MTSU has more than 100 partnerships with institutions all over the world and offers study-abroad opportunities in nearly 70 countries, including Israel, Switzerland, Brazil and more.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the students. They come back, and they’re transformed,” Summers said. “It changes their outlook and makes them a better citizen. We need to have these experiences; we need to know what it is to work with people from other cultures and people who speak different languages.”

MTSU’s study abroad programs are open to all majors and are designed to complement students’ degree plans. 

Students can participate in programs led by MTSU faculty through consortium providers and exchange programs. They can also conduct research overseas and complete internships abroad. 

“We just sent a group of students to Israel during the summer. We offer a watercolor class in Italy. Wouldn’t that be awesome to go to Italy and paint some beautiful beaches in watercolor and let that count toward your degree requirements?” Dr. Summers said.

Students interested in studying abroad must have a 3.0 GPA and work closely with the Office of Education Abroad six months to a year before their program.

“We want students to be a sophomore at least, but they need to start talking to us when they’re freshmen. We want them to do that because we want to make sure that we help them plan correctly,” Summers explained.

Programs can last as long as a full academic year or be as short as ten days. Financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, scholarships like HOPE Lottery, or other MTSU scholarships, can be used to cover costs. 

“A study abroad program is [financial] aidable. We have awarded almost a million dollars worth of scholarships to support studying abroad. It’s a tremendous, tremendous thing,” Dr. Summers said. 

“These students come back, and they don’t see things the same as they saw them before – it’s for the better. They are more confident employees; they know how to work with people from other cultures or people who don’t speak English as their first language,” he added.

Studies show that study abroad students are more likely to graduate, are more competitive applicants for grad school and earn higher incomes over a lifetime. 

“They get the opportunity to live in a different culture and to understand different ways of being,” Summers said. 

For the 2023-2024 academic year, MTSU offers nearly 50 study-abroad opportunities. 

“The roster is dynamic from year-to-year, and there are always new offerings based on student interest or new faculty proposals,” explained Summers. 

More than 350 students are expected to study abroad this summer. For more information on MTSU’s Study Abroad program, visit mtsu.edu/studyabroad.

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