Students are questioning whether studying abroad is over-hyped or a truly unforgettable experience
Studying abroad provides students with a number of opportunities to experience other parts of the world and may even change ones global view, however with reasons to consider such as cost, and education, many students are left wondering if the experience supersedes such factors.
Emma Green, a freshman majoring in biomedical science, is an interested student with concerns about studying abroad, primarily the cost that comes with it.
“What is keeping me from doing it right now is the money,” Green said. “It just seems really expensive and I am not sure that is something that my family can do right now.”
Amanda Maurer, Director of the Education Abroad Office, said such factors should be considered more of a non-issue, as there are solutions available to ensure students are able to experience what life is like while studying abroad.
“Last year over $800,000 was devoted and given to USF students, specifically for study abroad,” Maurer said. “That does not include individual scholarship from colleges, that is university wide through the Office of National Scholarships.
“There was a special Pell Grant offered through financial aid that gave Pell eligible students studying abroad $1,500 per person. Our office administers over $100,000 in scholarships, and then there was the (Global Citizens Project) Program scholarships, so there is money out there.”
For students like Amanda Garcia, a freshman majoring in biomedical science however, the thing weighing heaviest on her mind about education abroad is being accepted into the program.
“Getting accepted into the program is the thing that I am most worried about right now,” Garcia said. “I have financial aid assistance, so that is not a major concern, but having a good enough resume to be accepted is what is hard.”
James Streeter is the man who oversees acceptance into the program, as he is the Admissions Evaluator for the Education Abroad Office and also experienced studying abroad when he was a USF student in the past.
“The deciding factor for acceptance is the course approval form,” Streeter said. “What I do is to look and be sure that the form is verified by our registrar’s office in our department, and that sends the signal to me that the student is ready to go through with the program.”
Streeter also said he understands the concerns of students like Green and he encourages students to look into scholarship options, but also different forms of self-funding.
“Sometimes I talk to students about self-funding, with things such as GoFundMe accounts,” Streeter said. “Even if they only get $1,000, that can end up being a good percentage of the program.”
According to Maurer, the cost of education abroad is contingent upon which program students choose.
“There is a variety of different programs for different types of pocketbooks,” Maurer said. “We could have spring break program that is about $2,000, but we have a semester exchange that could be around $9,000-$10,000 and bright futures would count for a semester exchange too. Our Florence program is around $4,800 plus air fees and some other expenses. Usually all programs include housing.”
For Kyle Amrhein, a junior double majoring in health science and political science, the potential set back in expected graduation in 2019 is the major factor that has kept him from studying abroad thus far.
“I am holding back some just because I am taking so many classes,” Amrhein said. “If I want to graduate on time, within a normal two-year time frame it would be very difficult for me to be able to get the required classes studying abroad.”
Another issue for Amrhein is finding a course to take that is meaningful to his complicated academic track.
“Some of my classes are offered abroad, but because I am a junior I am in the more major-centered courses and those aren’t as likely to be offered in other countries,” Amrhein said.
Jonathan Gallego, a junior majoring in public health, was able to take his organic chemistry course abroad in the summer and have some of the most-memorable experiences of his life.
“My biggest take away from studying abroad in Florence was just being fully immersed in the culture and learning how to cook and live life there,” Gallego said.
Some of Gallego’s most memorable times from his trip were when he was lost in the streets of Florence.
“Every single day I would purposefully get lost in the city and try to find my way back home, just so that I could experience something different that Florence had to offer,” Gallego said. “Knowing me, I would get lost anyways, but doing so purposefully just provided something else to the experience.”
For students like Gallego, the biggest takeaways were the ones that still stick with him today, as studying abroad changed the way that he viewed the world.
“My mindset changed so much by studying abroad,” Gallego said. “Having people fully embrace you into their culture and just experiencing something new changes how you see the world and perceive everything and you grow so much from it.”