How to Strategically Integrate Global Studies into Your College Experience

By Breanna Naegeli
Associate Dean, Honors College

Students and teacher interacting with a textbook

Ibn Battuta said, “Traveling–it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Grand Canyon University and the GCU Honors College offer numerous global studies programs for students. Here is a few things to consider when trying to determine the best opportunity and the right time to strategically integrate a global studies program into your college career:

Define the Experience You Seek

There is a global studies program for everyone. Self-reflect on the type of program you’re seeking–mission-based, academic, cultural experience, language immersion, fun sight-seeing, career and internship focused or other. Selecting the best fit to meet your personal, professional and academic goals is essential in setting you up for success.

Keep an Open Mind

Some students get very stuck and set on going to one specific location–take Rome, Italy for example. Living in Rome for six months may be the dream of a lifetime; however, Rome is a worldwide tourist site and attraction with a heavy tourist traffic, high cost of living and less opportunity to experience intimate cultural immersion.

Many of our study abroad programs are set outside of Rome, Italy so that students can experience an authentic, local cultural experience rather than the tourist version. Keep an open mind to the cities and countries you’d like to explore. Your nights, weekends and school breaks are for you to travel and sight-see independently. Therefore, keep an open mind with where you would like to fully immerse yourself for these experiences.


Students should start planning their study abroad and travel experience eight-to-twelve months in advance due to the secondary application process, financial planning and the length of time it takes to acquire the travel documents that may be required for your program.

For academic-based programs like traditional study abroad or missions-based study abroad, a student’s second, third or fourth full semester or summer term is often the best fit. As students’ progress into upper-division, program-specific courses, it gets increasingly more difficult to find the coursework you need at the location of your choice.

Save Your Electives

Give yourself more flexibility in coursework options by saving your electives within your GCU program of study. Each university offers unique electives and coursework that can transfer back as electives. If you wish to have a long list of courses to choose from, keep these electives open!

STEM and Nursing Students

For some programs, integrating extended academic-based study abroad programs can be a challenge. My best recommendation, consider an international internship during your summer break. GCU has nearly four months off during the summer months. Spend eight-to-twelve of those weeks getting a global, study abroad experience while doing internship and work experiences rather than academic coursework. This is the best way to combine an extended study abroad “feel” and experience while maximizing the experience.

Who to Contact

The Study Abroad office hosts weekly information sessions on Fridays and also holds one-on-one consultations with students. Your Student Services Counselor (SSC) will also help you determine the best semester to go abroad and can discuss how to “save your elective” for your study abroad experience. Contact us today at

To learn more about how you can join a community of likeminded honors students in making change in the world, visit our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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