Study Abroad Office moves orientation online

Joseph Diebold

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Last week, Northwestern’s Study Abroad Office released a new Blackboard website that will replace the traditional mandatory in-person orientation for the approximately 400 students beginning their study abroad programs in the fall.

Francesca Miroballi, a study abroad adviser, said the “study abroad pre-departure/orientation Blackboard site” was devised to allow students to access orientation materials at their own leisure instead of having to come to a scheduled session.

“We’re trying to meet the students at the same tech level as they’re used to,” Miroballi said. “We found that delivering the information during a presentation where we’re standing there going over very general health and safety reminders and administrative reminders was just not cutting it.”

Miroballi added the orientation, which usually took place in early May, came too early for students who were not planning to leave until September. Students now must complete the new website’s curriculum by June 11.

Robin Leephaibul, the assistant director of the Study Abroad Office, said the office hopes to launch a similar site for the around 250 students doing summer programs abroad this week.

Leephaibul said the mandatory in-person orientation had become a hassle for students and the office got feedback from students who said they would prefer to complete the orientation on their own time.

“To pick one night out of the year where all of these students can come to hear this information is very hard to organize logistically, to get all of the speakers invited and to have all the students attend,” she said.

Miroballi emphasized students will be getting the same information they previously did at the orientation meeting, just in a different format. The information will be delivered primarily via an eight-video series from various NU administrators. The office has also moved the pamphlets from their welcome packets onto the website.

The new curriculum includes videos from Lisa Currie, the director of health promotion and wellness, on alcohol and other drugs, and Eva Ball, the coordinator of sexual violence response services and advocacy, on sexual awareness abroad.

“All of the information that’s being delivered is being delivered by those who are the experts of that information,” Miroballi said.

Miroballi said many students will still have in-person, program-specific orientations on campus, and on-site orientations once they get to their locations abroad.

Weinberg sophomore Sam Reznik, who will be studying abroad at Oxford University next year, said she likes the new website.

“The website was really helpful,” Reznik said. “All the information was in one place, so I definitely think it’s very organized and a great way to get information out to students.”

Leephaibul said the office will be launching a new website soon. She hopes to incorporate the new material into the website, allowing parents and academic advisers to access it as well as students.