The Saint Anselm Crier

Bjerklie-Barry replaces Keefe as new study abroad coordinator

While+this+is+Bjerklie-Barry%E2%80%99s+first+year+at+Saint+Anselm+College%2C+she+has+been+a+college+study+abroad+coordinator+for+12+years.
While this is Bjerklie-Barry’s first year at Saint Anselm College, she has been a college study abroad coordinator for 12 years.

While this is Bjerklie-Barry’s first year at Saint Anselm College, she has been a college study abroad coordinator for 12 years.

SARAH POOLMAN/CRIER

SARAH POOLMAN/CRIER

While this is Bjerklie-Barry’s first year at Saint Anselm College, she has been a college study abroad coordinator for 12 years.

Ed Frankonis, Crier staff

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With the recent absence of a director for study abroad programs, many students were concerned about the effects this vacancy might have on their ability to study abroad. Without a director to help students tackle the issues facing them, said students had worried about what impacts this vacancy might have on their ability to study abroad.

But no matter what said issues are, for new study abroad director and 30-year New Hampshire resident Jane Bjerklie-Barry (who is originally from California), the best resolutions are always student-centered.

“I utilize a holistic approach” to advising study abroad students, Ms. Bjerklie-Barry said in an interview with the Crier. For the past 12 years, she has labored tirelessly to ensure that students who wish to study abroad can go abroad.

Her career in advising study abroad students began when she started working for Plymouth State after graduating from the University of New Hampshire system with a business degree. Although advising international students at the school was not the initial focus of her job, she found that she loved doing so. As Plymouth State’s international student body grew, her love for helping these students grew along with it.

Ms. Bjerklie-Barry said her passion for helping students studying abroad “grew organically” as she advised said students in overcoming their challenges. One of her favorite challenges to help students overcome involves the rather tangled web of regulations that constitute U.S. immigration laws. For instance, she knows that if a student wished to come to Saint Anselm College from abroad for a degree, then that student is either eligible for an F-1 Visa or a J-1 Visa, depending on the length of stay for the student.

Her ability to be a “regulatory wonk” about the labyrinth-like (and often politically charged) world of immigration regulations allows her to be a valuable resource for the student body. If students “don’t have the answers” to immigration questions regarding travel abroad or just in general due to the current “immigration climate”, then it is important to know that they can come to her for such advice.

Ms. Bjerklie-Barry also explained that although studying abroad does come with its fair share of challenges, the benefits yielded by being able to study abroad are enormous. Going abroad is a wonderful “vehicle for personal development,” she said, as it allows students to learn invaluable skills like how to problem solve and be adaptable in an unfamiliar environment. She said this leads to positive benefits for students, telling the Crier that “students often tell me that ‘I never know I could do these things until I studied abroad. I’d always relied on my parents telling me what to do.’”

Ms. Bjerklie-Barry noted that these benefits aren’t just intrinsic for students, but they are also useful for their future careers as well. Given that the “world has gotten smaller” in the last twenty years, businesses have become more accustomed to operating on a global rather than a local scale. This makes employers want people, like study abroad students, who have already been exposed to new surroundings and cultures before. “If students have studied abroad, their resume gets put on top of the pile,” Ms. Bjerklie-Barry said, and concluded that employers tell her “all the time” about how valuable students who have studied abroad are to them.  

For the new Study Abroad director, the obstacles students face while studying abroad often revolve around both practical issues and common myths, both of which she loves helping students overcome. On practical matters, Ms. Bjerklie-Barry commented that it’s important for study abroad students to “be well-informed consumers.” For instance, science majors should consult their academic advisor so that their rigid course schedule can still be met with their going abroad.

Aside from helping students tackle challenges, Ms. Bjerklie-Barry’s wonk-like knowledge of relevant topics helps her bust popular myths students hear about going abroad. One is that it’s simply too costly for students to go abroad, which Ms. Bjerklie-Barry says could not be farther from the truth. Low-cost study abroad programs, like those available in Costa Rica or the Czech Republic, allow students to travel on a budget. And for students with narrow time frames (like science students) the director noted that there are plenty of short-term programs available just for that purpose.

Whatever the major or the budget of the student, Ms. Bjerklie-Barry stressed that there’s a study abroad program for them. Other popular myths that she addressed include having to be fluent in the host country’s language. Given that “English is the global language of business,” although being adaptable with different languages helps, students often don’t need to know more than the basics of another language to travel abroad.

Ms. Bjerklie-Barry said that she looks forward to working with the lauded Saint Anselm College community (whom her predecessor greatly praised), and is readily available to help any student who wishes to study abroad. For students with burning questions or stories about studying abroad, Director Bjerklie-Barry said that “My door is always open.”

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Bjerklie-Barry replaces Keefe as new study abroad coordinator