Staff Member Spotlight: Amy Kaspar

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Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Yes! I was a student in Thailand at ISDSI for a semester of undergraduate studies. One of my top priorities while in college was to study abroad. I was an anthropology major, and I knew the things I was learning in the US could be challenged and expanded in a cross-cultural setting.

Before I went on study abroad, I didn’t know much about Thailand except that I liked Thai food. I chose ISDSI more because of its program and less because of its location. I was lured in by the program’s unique emphasis on experiential learning and cultural immersion, and I’ve since fallen in love with the country.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

Study abroad is increasingly becoming more of an option to a wider crowd of university students, and in the next 10 years I think international education will have grown tremendously as an industry. The variety of programs and locations continues to grow, and the subjects students can study and observe will only continue to grow.

I think international education for university and high school students has the potential to initiate and build peace between countries with historically tense relationships. This could become especially true if study abroad programs emphasize the value of students living with host families, a remarkable opportunity to learn about everyday life and make meaningful connections with local people.

What language have you always wanted to learn and why​?

Through middle and high school I studied foreign language, but it wasn’t until I studied abroad that speaking a foreign language became something to love. When learning new words each day in class meant further possibilities to relate to host family members, vendors in the market, and people on the street, I was hooked.

I have been curious to learn more Thai as well as other languages since. There is a significant presence of Chinese people in Chiangmai and around the world, and I would love to learn Chinese. Now that I’ve acquired an ear for one tonal language, I’d love to take on the challenge of another one.

What changes would you make to the study abroad industry?

I would love to see the study abroad industry as a whole become more centered on community-based learning experiences. A lot of students go abroad and have an overseas experience on a university campus with a group of similar-minded similar-aged university students.

I think it’s important that students are pushed by their programs to know and appreciate the local people. Just as the tourism industry has the potential to exploit local communities for big business profit, international education can also make the mistake of capitalizing on local cultures and aesthetics without compensating local people for shared space and resources.

I’d like to see education programs put more work into building long-term relationships with local people for the benefit of not only foreign students’ learning but local people’s livelihoods.