Campus News

'Behind the Blue': Explore First, education abroad and UK's international presence

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 7, 2023) — For many first-generation students, overcoming fears are an ever-present part of their college experience. From visiting campuses, to complicated admissions, to making new friends, to leaving home, the uncertainty that can come with every step in the process can be a daunting challenge.

This past summer, 60 first-generation University of Kentucky students embraced their fears and expanded their horizons on a program that many called “life changing.”

Explore First: Careers, Cultures and Connections (Explore First), an education abroad opportunity developed by UK’s International Center and the Office for Student Success, is an integrated global learning experience with curricular and co-curricular elements. It is focused on career readiness with meaningful connections between academic attainment and post-graduation success. The experience is designed and implemented intentionally to equip and empower first-generation students who have made the bold decision to study abroad. 

The Explore First program expands access to education abroad opportunities. During the program’s launch in summer 2023, four cohorts of 15 first-generation students embarked on a three-week education abroad program to either London, England, or Dublin, Ireland, with little cost to the student. Students developed transferable skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability, independence and self-efficacy. Students completed and earned credit hours through a course that enhanced their career readiness skills. 

On this episode of "Behind the Blue," Kody Kiser and Tiana Thé from UK Strategic Communications converse with two of the administrators who helped develop the program: Executive Director of Education Abroad & Exchanges Niamh Larson, and Associate Provost for Internationalization Sue Roberts. They discuss how this pilot Explore First program may lead to greater opportunities for first-generation students, the continued importance of UK being an international destination for educational opportunities, the impact education abroad has on students as well as their families, and more.

On next week's "Behind the Blue," UK's Vice President for Student Success Kirsten Turner joins the podcast to discuss the part her office played in helping Explore First become a reality, as well as the other efforts they're putting forth to provide foundational support to all of our students.

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of "Behind the Blue" can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.

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As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.