Student Success Programs boost access to study abroad experiences

Jan. 25, 2023

Ask many alumni, and they’ll tell you studying abroad was a quintessential part of their college experience. A trip to Ecuador that tested their second language skills. A semester in Singapore that expanded their cultural understanding.

Though beloved by many, study abroad programs often come with barriers that keep some students from participating. That’s why Student Success Programs such as the Disability Resource Center, Horizons, and Purdue Promise are working to give more Boilermakers better access to these once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities.

Purdue Promise students take a boat ride in Spain

Pictured: Purdue Promise students take a boat ride in Spain.

David Kopp's Story

As a little boy, David Kopp was obsessed with anything with wheels. He spent hours driving his toy cars and buses around the living room floor. His imaginary train station always ran smoothly, inspired by his hometown of Chicago’s “L” train, which he was always excited to hear rumbling on its elevated track or churning far below the crowded city streets.

As he grew older, Kopp’s childhood hobby evolved into an all-encompassing appreciation for public transportation and the infrastructure that makes it possible. That’s why the decision to study civil engineering at Purdue was an easy one to make and why the opportunity to tour Europe and learn about its transportation systems seemed like a no-brainer. 

However, Kopp knew there were potential hurdles for him on a study abroad trip. 

“I’m legally blind,” he shares. “I have aniridia, which means I was born without irises. You know how eye doctors dilate your eyes? My eyes are pretty much always dilated, so I can’t control how much light comes in.”

With the help of the Disability Resource Center (DRC), Kopp confidently navigates around Purdue’s campus, but new spaces can be a challenge. So, when considering a study abroad trip to Europe to explore its transportation systems. Kopp reached out to his Access Consultant at the DRC to talk about accommodations. Together, the DRC and his professor adapted Kopp’s assignments so he could get the most out of the experience. They also coordinated with other students on the trip so someone was always walking with Kopp and explaining what the class was seeing.

“Everyone was willing to help me out,” Kopp recalls. “I was able to learn a lot from the trip, like how interconnected Europe’s transportation systems are and how easy it is to use their public transit. For me, accessibility of these systems is really important. Public transportation is how I get around.”

For students who want to go on a study abroad trip but may have concerns about accessibility, Kopp has these words of encouragement: 

“Go for it! The DRC and your professors are willing and happy to support you. They want you to have that experience, too.”

Pictured: David Kopp (Photo courtesy of Purdue Marketing and Communications)

New Horizons for Horizons Students

In an effort to expand access to study abroad opportunities for traditionally underrepresented Boilermakers, Horizons—a federally funded TRIO program serving 340 Purdue students—has developed a Global Leadership trip that takes students on challenging journeys of self-reflection, leadership development, and intercultural understanding as they travel to various locales around the world. 


Pictured: Horizons students at the  Poaz Volcano in Costa Rica

Horizons started this study abroad program in 2012 and has since helped 178 first-generation, income-eligible college students travel to places like South Africa, Costa Rica, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Cuba, and Peru. 

“As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, we will see intercultural competency shift from a nice-to-have skill to one that is required,” shares Brittany Allensworth, Director of Horizons. “If we, as student success and access champions, wish to prepare our scholars to become marketable and employable pre- and post-graduation, we must be intentional about contributing to their cultural enrichment. A study abroad experience is just one of the many ways to do so.”

Horizons students at Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve in Costa Rica

Pictured: Purdue Promise students in Spain

Purdue Promise Expands on its Promise

Serving students with a combined family-adjusted gross income of less than $50,000 per year, Purdue Promise helps Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars graduate on-time, debt-free, and more prepared for life after Purdue. In recent years, however, the program has started expanding on this initial promise by also opening the door to affordable study abroad opportunities.

Like Horizons, the Purdue Promise summer study abroad program receives subsidies from Global Partnerships and Programs, as well as Student Success Programs, that reduce trip costs, making them more accessible to low-income students. Mike Brzezinski, the Vice President for Global Partnerships and Programs, encourages qualifying students to also apply for the many available scholarships .

“Our semester and short-term study abroad scholarships are need-based,” he shares. “Students with a total family income of $75,000 or less receive larger scholarship awards. Also, the longer period of time a student spends abroad, the greater the award. We’re doing our best to get scholarship money in the hands of the students who need it the most.”

Since piloting its study abroad program in 2016, Purdue Promise has helped 109 students travel to places like Madrid, Spain and Glasgow, Scotland.

“Our program is committed to providing opportunities for students that will benefit them both personally and professionally,” says Purdue Promise Director Jazmine Clifton. “We know the valuable skills, cultural exposure, and knowledge gained while studying abroad have the power to transform students’ lives, as well as their families and communities.”

The Broader Goal of Student Success Programs

Purdue’s Student Success Programs aim to empower students to embrace a sense of lifelong learning. Studying abroad, along with the cultural exposure and experiences it provides, are critical in developing the curiosity and confidence Boilermakers need to keep exploring and asking the important questions long after they leave Purdue.

To learn more about these programs and how they support students, explore our website

headshot of communications specialist Emily Jones

Emily Jones

Communications Specialist for Student Success Programs, 

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

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