MONTCLAIR, NJ – Almost all high schools in Europe have global partnerships with high schools in other countries, according to Alina Pap, owner of Montclair-based Academic Multi Path (AMP) International Education Services and College Consulting.
Studying abroad is commonplace, said Pap, who wants to see this become the case in American high schools. She is currently working to make it happen.
Pap offers college counseling to students who are interested in pursuing higher education both inside and outside of the United States. She is also trying to work with local high schools to promote the idea of “internationalization of education” by facilitating the creation of exchange programs and study abroad programs at the high school level.
Pap is well-equipped to offer this advice. While only in business for two years, she has worked in the field of international education for more than 15 years, having served as Chair of CSIV International’s Interchange Program (a two-way family exchange sponsored by the global organization) and in the international education office of Seton Hall University, as an international education advisor. She is certified as an independent college consultant from the University of California, Irvine, holds a Master’s Degree in international education and is currently discussing a Ph.D. with the International Sducation Department of Lehigh University.
Pap said she decided to branch out on her own because she felt she could best serve the community as an independent consultant, rather than by working for a particular university or college. As a college admissions counselor, Pap said she strives to help students understand the current trends in higher education and why international academic exposure is becoming increasingly important. In addition, as the owner of AMP, she has the opportunity to reach out to smaller colleges and high schools and promote internationalization, which is her true passion.
The international aspect is what sets AMP apart from other academic consulting services and Pap works to help students find the right college fit including exploring the idea of a foreign university.
“What makes my services different, is that I have the expertise to help students face the challenges of the admission process and understand why colleges require international academic exposure,” she said. “Admissions and college fit is not all about the application process; rather, it is about comprehending the new trends in higher education, which are actually dictated by the international education and not by a traditional college experience.”
“Because many students have little international exposure because of the lack of the internationalization in U.S. high schools, AMP can help prospective college students fill in the gaps during the admissions process,” she said.
In addition, Pap can also advise international students on how to apply for colleges in the U.S. or if they are already in the U.S., she can help with college transfers or post-graduate education.
Going beyond college consulting, Pap said she wants to focus on the internationalization of high schools because she has found most of the larger colleges and universities have already established international offices of their own, but that high schools, small colleges and community colleges need help with strategic planning in order to pursue internationalization.
“I found in speaking to colleges and local high schools that most high schools don’t do much internationally,” Pap said. “For example, they don’t really have partnerships abroad and they don’t participate in, or host international exchange programs. It’s not that they don’t want to, they just don’t know how.”
It seems the Institute of International Education (IIE) shares Pap’s view on the importance of studying abroad. The IIE launched the “Generation Study Abroad” program in 2014, a five-year initiative that brings leaders in education, business and governments together to double the number of U.S. college students studying abroad. According to Pap, in order to meet the IIE’s goal, high school students must be encouraged to study abroad as well.
Pap said she feels that by introducing international opportunities earlier on in the education experience, students will be less intimidated by the thought of studying abroad. Currently, less than 10 percent of U.S. students study abroad, according to the IIE.
In contrast, most high schools in Europe introduce the idea of studying abroad early on. Pap said that most of those schools have global partnerships and students regularly seek the opportunity to go abroad for a few weeks in the summer to study foreign languages or participate in a cultural exchange program.
“The high school I attended in Romania had partnerships with several schools in several countries,” Pap said. “It made me question why high schools in Cedar Grove or Verona don’t have that, or if they have a program—it’s quite limited. “
It is this idea that inspired Pap to pursue her Ph.D. as something she plans to research further in conjunction with Lehigh University. Her first challenge is educating the community and local schools about the importance of studying abroad.
“I understand that high schools have budget constraints and different priorities,” she said. “The challenge for me is showing them that this should be a priority. The challenge, when working with the community, is helping them understand that they can trust sending their child abroad.“
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