Studying abroad can provide a great cultural experience

Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to experience another country, get to know other students and earn credit. The one thing holding them back from this great opportunity is often the frightening cost.

At Eastern Michigan University, a weeklong winter break study abroad can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 for the program fee. A summer trip that runs about two months can cost over $4,000. This program fee usually does not include round-trip international airfare or tuition.

According to the Association of International Educators, in the 2011-12 academic year, only 283,332 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit. So why is studying abroad so greatly encouraged when it seems like very few students would be able to afford it?

“It’s actually quite a bargain,” said Benita Goldman, EMU study abroad program coordinator and advisor.

Goldman said that the program fee and tuition actually go right onto the student bill, which means that financial aid is applicable and you can set up payment plans to pay it off.

As far as the plane ticket and other living costs while abroad, it is best to plan ahead and either save or incorporate these costs while filling out the FAFSA application in the beginning of the year. Students can speak to a financial aid advisor as well in order to arrange the aid so they are getting more back during their study abroad period.

“You can get your requirements out of the way and get that cultural experience,” said Goldman.

A majority of the study abroad trips offered through EMU count towards general education requirements, such as history, art or foreign language.

There are also many scholarships available for students interested in studying abroad.

“I received a scholarship to go from the honors college which basically paid for my whole trip and half of my flight,” said Rachel Laeng, an occupational therapy major.

Laeng traveled to Italy for ten days and took the course Power, Place and Image in Florence and Rome.

“From this trip I learned to be more independent, which built my confidence,” said Laeng. “I also learned a lot about renaissance history which fascinated me and made me want to take a US class, which I did this semester.”

Many students who are intimidated by studying abroad may not be aware of how simple the steps are. Everything is available online. You can research options by country, time of year or program through emich.edu/abroad.

In addition to finding a trip and applying online, it is recommended by the university that students also meet with a study abroad advisor. These appointments can be scheduled online as well and the advisors are located in Boone Hall.

“It does not get old,” said Goldman.

She said that her international traveling has made her a better teacher because of the great depths of knowledge she has gained.

As long as students are willing to put forth a little effort in finding the right program, applying for scholarships and doing some saving then study abroad is doable for almost any student.

“We understand our audience and go to great efforts to keep the costs as low as possible,” said Goldman.

If you still need some general education credits and you have always wanted to travel outside of the United States, then studying abroad may not be as out of reach as you think.

“I would encourage anyone to study abroad, I think it is a great experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity.” said Laeng. “You learn and see so much, it's just a great experience over all.”


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