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Penn’s study abroad office welcomes a new face this month — Study Abroad Director Barbara Gorka.

A Penn alumna, Gorka previously worked for Colgate University and Temple University in their study abroad programs.

Looking forward to working at a larger university, Gorka calls Penn “unique in having a direct enrollment opportunity to study abroad,” meaning that a student has the choice to enroll at universities abroad where he or she could be the only Penn student.

Beyond this, she said the options available to students include not only Western European schools but also more non-traditional locations that offer focuses on specific languages such as Chinese or Arabic.

“I am looking forwards to speaking with study abroad alumni about what they liked and didn’t like as well as students aspiring to study elsewhere,” she said.

Gorka said the immediate challenges she faces are that she only just arrived on campus three weeks ago, but more specifically that the destinations students want to study at and where faculty want them to study “are continually changing, and are not always in sync with each other.”

In order to address students’ immediate and long-term concerns, Gorka plans to “listen carefully to students, faculty and administrators and to take all that they say and put it towards change and new projects.”

For Penn specifically, Gorka is investigating how to accommodate the study abroad needs of each of the four undergraduate schools.

“A program that fits an Engineering student might not also be right for a [School of Arts and Sciences] student,” she said.

During the 2009-10 school year there were “close to 120 programs,” and students ended up in 39 different countries.

According to Director of International Programs Anne Waters, Penn students are very interested in going abroad and are especially concerned with possible work advantages and the grading practices of other universities.

“Dr. Gorka plans to try to get to know Penn students and faculty to ensure that Penn Abroad programs support student interests and academic goals,” Waters wrote in an e-mail.

On Gorka’s selection, Waters is very optimistic, saying that the selection committee was “very impressed” with her experience in administration as well as study abroad management.

Rudie Altamirano, director of international student and scholar services, called Gorka his counterpart, as she is focused on “the export of students and I on the import.”

Altamirano believes that it is Gorka’s combination of managerial and leadership experience that makes her an exceptional choice, since she will address the concerns of administrators — mainly the safety and security of students, as well as the academic rigor demanded by Penn students and faculty.

“She is bringing in the ammunition that is her experience,” he said.

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