International Center Update

Dear Colleagues and Friends of the International Center,

We are nearing the finish line for 2023-24! As the academic year draws to a close, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to our international programs and initiatives at Cal Poly—faculty, staff, donors, leadership, and partners near and far. Our Spring 2024 newsletter showcases our myriad efforts to internationalize our campus and enrich the Cal Poly community through interdisciplinary collaboration.

As summer approaches, the International Center is sending approximately 1,200 students on study abroad programs and over 200 on international trips for summer and fall 2024. Our well-attended pre-departure orientations helped students consider their roles as global citizens and make meaningful connections prior to departing on their various journeys.

We welcomed over 300 international students and visiting scholars to campus and are pleased to share the experiences of Prof. Dr. Nils Hoegsdal from Stuttgart Media University, who taught for the Graphic Communications Department this spring. Our international students also enjoyed a unique Central Coast treat on an excursion to the Carrizo Plain to witness this past April’s superbloom!

We had the opportunity to host a number of engaging and impactful events, including our third Passport Fair, which saw nearly 100 excited students become first-time passport holders, an International Faculty and Staff Mixer which brought together 90 international and internationally-minded colleagues, and our Internationalization Symposium, which inspired us to take a thoughtful, ethical approach to global travel. I commend our team on their many ambitious accomplishments this year and invite you to take a look at all that we achieved!

Looking ahead to 2024-25, we’re excited for the launch of the pilot First Year GO (Global Opportunities) program in spring 2025, which will send its inaugural cohort of first-year students from the College of Liberal Arts and Orfalea College of Business to engage in experiential learning and immerse in Andalusian culture in Seville, Spain.

I am also pleased to introduce our newest additions to the International Center team, and I invite you to give them a warm welcome if you see them in the office or at our upcoming events. I also invite you to follow the journey of one of our graduating study abroad peer advisors, who has made some wonderful contributions to our team and, after travels in Singapore and Rome, is now heading abroad to begin her next adventure in her career.

We couldn’t achieve any of these milestones without you and the wonderful professional and student staff at the International Center. Thank you for your continued support and cheers to another year of making a global impact!

Cari Vanderkar

Unlocking the World at the Passport Fair

Students posing for a photo next to an advertisement
Look out, world! Nearly 100 students became first-time US passport holders at the International Center’s third Passport Fair, which took place on April 24th. This year’s event was co-sponsored by CEA CAPA and all Cal Poly colleges, offsetting the $165 application fee for student applicants and bringing their dreams of exploring the world within reach.

“Attaining a first-time passport is a significant milestone for prospective study abroad students,” said Cari Vanderkar, Assistant Vice Provost for International Programs. “It will unlock unlimited possibilities not just for individual travel, but personal growth, cultural enrichment, and global citizenship,” Vanderkar said. The International Center is thankful for the co-sponsors of the event and the collaboration with the US Postal Service and Cal Poly’s Print and Copy. We look forward to supporting another 100 students next year!

Bringing Cal Poly to the World, Mindfully

Someone speaking on a stage in front of an audience

On May 15 and 16, the International Center hosted Dr. Anu Taranath, an award-winning speaker and author of “Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World” (2019) at the 2024 Internationalization Symposium. Over a hundred attendees filled the PAC Pavilion as Dr. Taranath led an illuminating presentation and an interactive workshop delving into the intersections of power dynamics and privilege in global travel.

Co-sponsored by the colleges of Business, Engineering, Liberal Arts and Science and Math; the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI); the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology; and the Leadership and Service department, the Symposium and subsequent workshop provided platforms for fostering cross-cultural dialogue and enhancing critical reflection and understanding of the impact of international programming.

“Dr. Anu’s approach to mindful travel is one of openness, exploration and gentleness. She makes her material accessible, enjoyable and powerful, and inspires us to approach global travel thoughtfully and with cultural humility” said Cari Vanderkar, Assistant Vice Provost for International Programs and International Center Director.

This year’s events served to deepen collective understanding of race, access, inequality, and social justice in approaching travel and living abroad, and empowered attendees to play a more proactive role in addressing the complex challenges facing today’s world.

International Faculty & Staff Mixer Builds Global Connections

Two women smiling

The International Faculty and Staff Mixer, held in April in the Oreggia Family Foundation Culinary Lab in the Frost Center was a resounding success! With wonderful collaboration from the Food Science and Nutrition and Wine and Viticulture departments, along with co-sponsorship from nearly every Cal Poly college, over 90 attendees gathered to enjoy homegrown Cal Poly-made refreshments and network with colleagues involved in international initiatives across campus.

The event was part of the International Center’s ongoing efforts to build community among internationally-minded professionals, connect those engaged in global programs and activities, and foster greater interdisciplinary collaboration on these. Our hope is that these and similar initiatives will help increase visibility of, and galvanize engagement in, international programming across campus while supporting global learning opportunities for the students we serve.

Missed the event and want to be part of our vibrant networking community? Please contact Cari Vanderkar, Assistant Vice Provost for International Programs for further information (

Stay tuned for ongoing opportunities to connect and network in 2024-25!

Bridging Continents: Dr. Nils Hoegsdal’s Experience as a Visiting Scholar From Germany

People posing and smiling for a photo at a baseball game

Cal Poly and Stuttgart Media University (HdM) have a robust and longstanding partnership through the CSU/Baden-Württemberg state program. From my first visit to the Cal Poly campus in 2017, I knew it was my top choice for teaching abroad. After reciprocal visits in 2023, before we could embark on the journey to Cal Poly, we first had to navigate the paperwork process, which was facilitated by the enthusiastic support of the International Center, which ensured that my son and I were able to secure our J-1 and J-2 visas in plenty of time for spring quarter. From day one, Colleen Larkin Twomey and her colleagues in the Graphic Communication (GRC) program, along with Dean Philip Williams and Brady Teufel from the College of Liberal Arts, helped me acclimate and ensured a seamless transition into Cal Poly culture and welcomed me right away. I had the pleasure of teaching GRC 451, which focuses on management topics with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Several people have asked me, “How was the teaching/student experience different?” Surprisingly, it wasn’t! Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” approach is actually quite similar to HdM’s motto, “Studieren. Wissen. Machen” (Study. Understand. Make things happen.), making the pedagogical transition a smooth one. The class culminated with a highly engaged cohort of students pitching seven startup ideas, all of which were quite innovative. Beyond teaching, professional work and numerous activities organized by our team like beach bonfires and basketball games, this quarter was also an unforgettable learning journey for me. I eagerly participated in every in-person training and workshop my schedule would accommodate, allowing me to make connections across diverse departments and experiences throughout campus. Highlights included “AI in Teaching,” the wonderful Dr. Anu Taranth’s “Beyond Guilt Trips” book circle and “Mindful Travel in an Unequal World” workshop hosted by the International Center, and the “Cultivating Connections: Integrating Indigenous Perspectives into Sustainability Curricula” session.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have enriched my exchange experience through these offerings and initiatives, which have truly broadened my perspectives and contributed to my professional development as an instructor. I want to thank everyone who made this experience possible, and I look forward to continuing deepen my work within Cal Poly’s vibrant educational landscape. On a personal note, my 15-year-old son Nathan also enjoyed forging international connections while attending SLO High School, where he joined the Track & Field-Team as a distance runner.

If you happen to be visiting Germany in the near future, I would love to connect! Please feel welcome to reach out on LinkedIn at: or relive our experiences living the SLO life on our blog:

New Faces: International Center Welcomes Midori Hill and Justin Kumamoto

We are pleased to introduce our newest staff members, Midori Hill and Justin Kumamoto!

Meet Midori Hill

A student smiling


Midori Hill began her role as Administrative Support Coordinator at the International Center in January, and has continued to make an impact since through her support of department activities, programs and initiatives, including Study Abroad and International Students & Scholars.

Originally from Pohnpei, a small island in the Federated States of Micronesia, Midori brings experience from her previous role as an instructional aide for Transitional Kindergarten at a public elementary school. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Education from Tokyo Gakugei University in Japan, a journey that sparked her passion for facilitating study abroad experiences. Her ultimate aspiration is to ensure that every student has the chance to explore international education opportunities.

Meet Justin Kumamoto

A student smiling


Joining the International Center in November as a Study Abroad Graduate Intern, Justin Kumamoto has since embraced his role as a Study Abroad Advisor. A Bay Area native who has lived in four different states, Justin brings with him a broad range of experience and a passion for international education which was sparked during his time as an undergraduate, when he participated in a faculty-led study abroad program in Europe.

Justin holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Economics from Hofstra University in New York. He is currently completing his Master of Science in Higher Education Counseling and Student Affairs at Cal Poly SLO. His rich academic background and firsthand experience, coupled with his dedication to creating global learning experiences for students, have already made him an asset to the team. He thrives on providing students with the support and encouragement needed to inspire their own study abroad journeys, helping them broaden their horizons and experience the world beyond Cal Poly SLO.

Introducing: First Year GO

Seville, Spain

Pilot Program Takes Flight Spring 2025

The International Center is pleased to announce the First Year GO (Global Opportunities) program in Seville, Spain. This landmark study abroad opportunity is specifically designed for first-year students, bringing international programming to this demographic for the first time at Cal Poly.

Launching spring 2025, First Year GO provides a unique avenue for those eager to engage in intercultural exchange from the beginning of their college career – all while keeping pace with their degree flowchart.

First Year GO will change the game for CLA and OCOB students, offering a unique way to jumpstart their degree progress alongside their personal growth journey. This immersive program, based in the heart of Andalusia, provides an interdisciplinary learning experience in a global context, broadening students’ worldview and preparing them for the rest of their academic career at Cal Poly. Participants build a supportive community through shared academic and extracurricular experiences, fostering lasting connections and developing independence. Through navigating diverse cultural landscapes with respect and understanding, students bolster their confidence and leadership skills. Students take fully-articulated courses taught at partner program CEA CAPA’s centrally located student center, which is enriched with 24/7 onsite comprehensive support and resources to ensure a seamless and successful first-year college experience.

Studies show early exposure to international experiences can significantly impact students’ personal and academic development. Students who participate in early study abroad programs often demonstrate improved problem-solving skills, greater adaptability, and greater cultural awareness – attributes which are particularly valuable in today’s diverse and dynamic global environment. First Year GO recognizes the value of integrating these benefits during the first year of a student’s higher education journey.

For an institution synonymous with innovation, the program was a natural expression of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy. “Studying abroad is a transformative experience that not only enriches students’ academic growth but also shapes their sense of self and career trajectory,” said Cari Vanderkar, Assistant Vice Provost for International Programs and International Center Director. “By expanding global opportunities to first-years, our intention is to build a strong foundation through immersive, experiential, globally relevant learning that will instill in them the confidence, curiosity, and cultural humility needed in today’s interconnected world.”

Outward Bound

Students speaking

International Center Prepares to Send 1,200 Students Abroad in Summer/Fall 2024

As campus begins to wind down for summer break, 325 Cal Poly students are packing their bags to study abroad this summer, followed by a cohort of roughly 860 students preparing to go abroad in fall 2024. While the most popular destinations remain Spain and Italy, students will also be venturing to Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania, while others will stay closer to home on domestic study away programs in Alaska, Washington, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

To help prepare students for their travels both practically and mentally, students complete a self-paced pre-departure course on Canvas and participate in a pre-departure orientation webinar. At this year’s webinar, held May 7, CPIC staff and study abroad Peer Advisors answered over 100 questions from departing students.

On May 21, nearly 300 departing students filled Chumash Auditorium for an optional Meet & Greet. Over pizza and snacks, students shared their excitement with their peers, and connected with fellow Cal Poly students embarking to the same locations. The event is a unique opportunity for students to build networks of support before going abroad, and is an important step in ensuring a successful and fulfilling study abroad experience.

“These connections provide a safety net, offering guidance, emotional support, and valuable insights from those who have already navigated the challenges of living in a new culture,” said Stacey Shimizu, Assistant Director of the International Center. “By establishing these relationships early, students are better equipped to embrace their international experience with confidence and resilience.”

Learning in Bloom: International Students Visit Carrizo Plain

Students jumping in the air on the beach

Spring has sprung in San Luis Obispo County, and unforgettable experiences are never far from our doorstep! This past April, twenty international students took a study break for a day trip to the iconic Carrizo Plain National Monument. Students from Germany, South Korea, and everywhere in between had the unique opportunity to enjoy a picnic against the backdrop of hills painted with multicolor wildflowers.

While this year’s super bloom wasn’t as big as in years past, the students enjoyed a scenic getaway taking in the sounds of nature, wildlife sightings, and the serene beauty of Soda Lake. Among the adventurers was Shannon Fracchia, a Business Administration student from France. “I loved this trip because I got to meet so many incredible people and explore new areas around San Luis Obispo,” she shared.

“We are so fortunate to be able to offer an opportunity like this to our international students,” said Bianca Silva, International Student Coordinator. “A trip like this not only provides an avenue for students to take a pause and enrich their holistic wellbeing in nature, but also for cultural exchange and lasting connections that they will carry with them well beyond graduation.”

Mustangs Abroad: Sojourning in Singapore and Rome

A student smiling

We always love hearing stories from our Global Mustangs who have participated in study abroad programs. It’s these stories that inspire others to join and emphasize the value of cultural exchange for students as they engage in our multicultural community and world. Our graduating Peer Advisor Sofia Rogel shares the impact of her experience traveling to Singapore and Rome:

“Until January of 2022, studying abroad in Singapore had never crossed my mind or appeared on my radar of upcoming travel destinations. When I entered college, I had already done all my research on a program that I was confident I would participate in come my third year. These plans abruptly changed due to the Covid pandemic shutting down the program for the academic quarter I had planned on studying there. No other program was being offered in the location I had originally researched, and so I was back to phase one: where do I want to study abroad?

CIEE offers a program called “Open Campus Block” which allows you to spend three six-week blocks studying at campuses across the globe, and I thought why decide on one when I can do many, so I chose Shanghai and Rome. Shanghai seemed like a logical choice considering my field of study (Industrial Technology and Packaging), as the city is known for being a hub for professionals in this field. My goal was to immerse myself in a region known for its innovation and progress, and Shanghai perfectly fit this criteria.

As for Rome, I had never been to Europe before and Rome, with its rich history and cultural heritage, seemed like an ideal starting point for my European exploration. This was my plan for half a year, until I received an email saying Covid had resulted in the Shanghai program closure for the coming academic year, and I had to let them know by Thursday where I would want to go instead. Two days to do six months of research on where to go. I received an email saying if I went to Singapore I would receive a grant, and so I said why not, another hub for technology and innovation, Singapore could be really cool. It really was a leap of faith, and come that fall I had found somewhere on this planet that felt like home more than anywhere else ever felt. I took classes with the CEO of Siemens, I made friends on the island who I still talk to frequently, and I found a lifestyle for myself that made me excited for each day I was there.

Singapore gave me a place to blossom, and since landing in America in January 2023, it has been my goal to move back. This past school year, I worked in the study abroad office as a peer advisor, where my love for being a part of international education has blossomed. I get to talk to students about my two favorite things, travel and education. It has been so special being a part of their journey to finding their home somewhere else on this globe and it got me thinking, why not continue this work following graduation?

I began reaching out to CIEE in October 2023, expressing interest in the field and an opportunity to go back, but nothing seemed feasible. Nevertheless, I continued to stay in contact with the program and CIEE staff across the globe and unexpectedly received an email at almost midnight one day in April that would change the course of my life, from Marc Teng, my former program director: “Work Experience at CIEE in Singapore.” I was on a phone call with the study center the next day and applied for my VISA the following. Before I knew it, Singapore would be becoming my home for the remainder of 2024.

Starting July, I will join the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) at their Singapore office as a program assistant for students, guiding them through their study abroad journey the same way I was supported by my program assistant, Doreen Tang, when I was there. Singapore showed me the value of living in an international environment, and CIEE taught me the importance of intercultural education. I am eager to keep contributing to the international education journey of students as they embark on their own transformative experiences abroad, and I thank Cal Poly’s International Center for the experience this past year in their office, which provided me with even more of a passion for being a part of international education.