As more international experiences become available, SUNY Oswego’s Office of International Education and Programs focuses on encouraging abroad experiences for all students who want them, exemplified by December 2021 graduate Awa Dembele’s  “Being Abroad” video podcast. 

Dembele was able to study in the Czech Republic during her time at Oswego. This experience inspired her to seek further work in the Office of International Education and Programs, becoming a Diversity Abroad mentor last semester. 

“My role was really just there to really just be honest, be transparent,” said Dembele, who double majored in criminal justice and sociology. “To share my experience and see if I can inspire as many students as possible.” 

During her time as Diversity Abroad mentor, Dembele made the “Being Abroad” podcast, which consists of a series of interviews with alumni who had studied abroad at Oswego –- and showing ways to make such experiences possible.

“I think it’s a great addition to our website,” said Lizette Alvarado, associate director of Oswego’s Education Abroad program and Dembele’s direct supervisor in her role as Diversity Abroad mentor. “When students go in there to learn about different programs that we have, not only are they learning about these programs but they also can hear directly from students and their study abroad experiences.” 

Dembele said doing the podcast was an eye-opening experience for her that helped form her future goals. 

“It was actually because of the podcast that I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in international education,” said Dembele. “So, after speaking to the alumni, I felt really assured in my career path and what I wanted to do in just hearing their own stories and their own experiences and comparing it to mine.” 

Showing possibilities

A large part of what the Diversity Abroad mentor does and what the Office of International Education and Programs looks to do is inform students about the feasibility of studying abroad, even for those who believe outside factors would prevent them from doing so.  

“Eventually, we decided, you know what, we need to continue to really work and increase the number of students of color as well as first-generation students, students from various backgrounds,” said Alvarado, including “students that were not able to necessarily study abroad because of finances.” 

In her experience with the “Being Abroad” podcast, Dembele learned just how possible it is for Oswego students to study abroad, regardless of their financial situation. She said her interactions with alumni Tiana Morris and Diandre Coote-Anderson were particularly illuminating.

“I learned that it’s definitely possible for you to have your trips fully paid for,” said Dembele. “For anybody who wants to learn more about the financial aspect of it, definitely check out Tiana’s podcast and Diandre, because they studied abroad for a semester and fully funded, like they didn’t have to come out of pocket.”

Dembele also stressed the possibility of studying abroad for those with majors that require classes like labs that would normally complicate efforts to go overseas. 

“Don’t let your major stop you,” said Dembele. “There are so many programs out there. There are semester-long programs, quarter-long programs, two-week long programs. There’s literally something for everyone.”

Ultimately, resources like Dembele’s “Being Abroad” podcast as well as the “I, Too, Am Study Abroad” campaign developed by the Education Abroad office exist to remind students of the opportunities available to them from the Office of International Education. A few SUNY Oswego students are currently studying abroad for spring, with more opportunities possible in the future.

“The end goal, again, is about encouraging students to study overseas,” said Alvarado. “There’s always an opportunity and a door that can be opened for you to study abroad.”

Visit the "Being Abroad" video playlist on YouTube.

For more information and resources, visit the Education Abroad website.

-- Written by Collin Knapp of the Class of 2023