Spartans of UD: Phyllis Garfield

Feb 14, 2018

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus. Phyllis Garfield, director of international student services and study abroad, began her career at UD in 2000. She received the Staff Member of the Year Award in 2017.

Phyllis Garfield - Spartans of UD
Director of International Student Services and Study Abroad

1. What led you to the role of director of international student services and study abroad?

“Due to the encouragement of my undergraduate history professor, I applied for a Fulbright Fellowship to study history in Germany and was able to spend a year in graduate study in Germany many years ago. It was that experience that gave me the passion to travel. I passed that passion on to Alan Garfield, chair and professor of digital art and design at UD and director of the Bisignano Art Gallery, after we were married. We began taking students to Europe in 1983 at Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa. After our children were born, I stayed home for the next 18 years but continued to travel internationally. When we moved to Dubuque, Alan brought his travel program here and I was offered a part-time position promoting study abroad at UD. I was later asked to add international student services to this job and my position was made full-time.”

2. How are you able to help international students once they arrive at UD?

“What we offer to international students changes each year, depending on needs. Years ago we would meet students at the airport, set them up in housing, and spend a week in orientation activities such as opening bank accounts, getting new cell phones, going to Walmart for household supplies, etc. Some changes we’ve seen over the years are that students are becoming more independent, and they have often already reached out to other students or taken care of the housekeeping things before they arrive. But they are still homesick, overwhelmed, and in need of friendly faces and a warm welcome. Now our concerns tend to be keeping students safe and making sure they have all documentation needed. On a brighter note, we have over the years gone shopping in nearby cities with international food markets, taken skiing lessons at Sundown Mountain Resort, picnicked at Eagle Point Park, hiked at Lake MacBride State Park in Solon, Iowa, enjoyed the Christmas and Halloween displays in Galena, Illinois, hosted an international fair and photo exhibit, and celebrated the Lunar New Year, Thanksgiving, and other holidays. We are always excited to collaborate with student organizations to develop new programs or events. What our international students would love the most is to have friendships with American students, not just the friendly lady in the International Student Services Office.”

3. Why should students study abroad?

“Wow, the reasons are as varied as our student body! Here are a few:

  1. Best way to learn another language is by immersion! And all professional majors benefit from knowing a second (or third) language.
  2. You will learn transferrable skills such as independence, patience, empathy, problem-solving, self-confidence, resourcefulness, and leadership.
  3. You might find your calling! When my professor suggested that I apply to study abroad, it had never occurred to me that I would ever go anywhere outside of Nebraska!
  4. You will see your world as others see it, and that will change your point of view, too.
  5. You can internship abroad! Many of our majors require at least one internship. Imagine how an international internship experience will look on a resume.
  6. And remember, there are many ways to study and travel abroad. Being away for an entire semester isn’t practical for everyone. But we want to work with every student to find the best way forward if they have this dream!”

4. What are some tips you would give to students who would like to study abroad?

“Start early, come up to our office and visit with me or Jodi Troutman, our study abroad advisor, be realistic about your finances, start early (did I mention that?), be open to new things, remember that there will be ups and downs, and be patient with yourself and others. I have never met a student who regretted studying abroad. It is life-changing, even if you don’t end up making it a career!”

5. What is your favorite place to travel? Why?

“Donegal, Ireland. Always Ireland. Because we have owned a little house in the country in Donegal since 1991. Our kids grew up there in the summers. But I have a huge bucket list of places I’d like to visit and people I’d like to meet! The Greek Islands are indescribable, and (hint) the spring 2019 art and culture course will visit Greece!”