Oh, the places you can go with an Anthropology degree. And by places we mean all over the globe. UNLV Director of International Programs, Susan Thompson, earned her BA degree in Anthropology at UNLV. She helps undergraduate students enjoy a variety of study abroad experiences. She sits on the Board of the University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC), of which UNLV is a member, and that affords many student study abroad opportunities. We share a Q and A with her here.
In what ways do you think your Anthropology undergraduate experience led to your professional trajectory and current role at UNLV as Director of International Programs?
Studying Anthropology helps you develop respect for other cultures. It is very important to learn from different perspectives and I hope that my work with International Programs provides that opportunity for our students. My experience with the faculty in the Department of Anthropology inspired me to want to work internationally and to be a part of higher education.
You have been able to travel extensively in your work, including visits to international study abroad sites. Could you share with us a couple of your most meaningful international travel experiences or what lessons you have learned in your travels?
I have learned to be respectful, to be kind, to listen and observe. Your ability to be flexible and accept differences will be rewarded.
One of the best parts of working internationally is developing close relationships with colleagues from other countries. I have been able to help three students come to UNLV for graduate programs. Their parents work for USAC. One student came from Costa Rica where his father has served as the Resident Director, the onsite administrator of the program, for 25 years. Two other students came from Spain where their mother has directed the program in San Sebastian for over 30 years. It was great to have them stay in our home and help them adjust to life in Las Vegas.
As a discipline, Anthropology is attuned to cultural context. What do you hear from UNLV students about the impacts of their study abroad experiences on their cross-cultural awareness and interests?
Students do say that they have an enhanced awareness and appreciation of cultural differences and express how they have matured through living abroad. Most students want to return to their study abroad location as soon as possible. The desire to see more of the world is also something most students tell us when they return.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended study abroad programs, but study abroad options are returning. What should a UNLV undergraduate student know about planning for study abroad? How will study abroad likely be shaped by the pandemic in the next few years?
Regardless of the current impact of the pandemic, students should always plan well in advance to be sure that they can apply for scholarships and financial aid. It is also important that the academic planning is carefully completed. There are so many programs to consider and early planning helps students understand their options. We are not able to project how this pandemic will impact programs moving forward but we are certain that students will continue to engage with the world.