Jennifer Ellis Fritz

When I studied abroad I did not understand credit transfer. I left my home campus for an international institution and did not have my classes reviewed with my academic advisor or signed by a campus official within my academic department or any academic department prior to departure. I was a first-generation college student and the first person in my family to study abroad.

My home campus was a state university in the U.S. At that time very few students studied abroad from my home campus. I knew through prayer studying abroad would be a defining time in my undergraduate career.

When I arrived back home from my study abroad program I went through a myriad of campus offices before arriving at a dean then provost level meeting where they took pity on my unfamiliarity of course approval. Without my home university accepting credit from abroad courses I would have lost my financial aid and the ability to return to campus to finish my degree. With a stroke of a pen and support of several campus offices all my courses were approved and added to my transcript, and my financial aid was released.

Now several years later when I look back as an associate director working in the Office of Global & Off-campus Education (OGOE) it seems impossible a student would not understand basic components of leaving their home campus for an off campus program. I did not know how I could not know or understand this concept. I think of all the things I did not know and understand. I think of the people that took extra time to shepherd me, mentor me and provide support so I would succeed. The grace of others can sometimes seem like a mystery. I think of the grace that met me as a first-generation college student.

As an undergraduate, at times, I felt I was in a foreign setting on my own U.S. college campus. I have not told this story very often but it is woven into the fabric of my life and provided to be an instructive experience. I draw upon it when I think about serving others. Today I have the fortune of working with students interested in off-campus/study abroad.