Go Global – Learning Beyond our Borders
Options for Learning Beyond our Borders
Young Colin Boyd loved hearing about his grandparents’ travels to other countries. Today he collects flags from around the world.
“I remember getting a globe as a kid and I thought that was the coolest thing,” says Boyd a senior at Michigan State University who has traveled the world throughout college.
Boyd had his first experience studying in another country before he even started college. Before arriving on campus he joined 30 other freshmen and a professor on a two-week trip to Ireland studying what makes Irish cities attractive to young adults. They had class every morning and then interviewed pub owners city officials and average citizens.
Then Boyd spent part of the summer after his freshman year in Australia where he and other students traveled around the continent and explored the Great Barrier Reef the world’s largest coral reef. He plans to attend John Cabot University in Rome this fall.
Studying abroad is habit-forming after the first time says Boyd who’s double-majoring in English and economics.
Not everyone has the time (or money) to travel as much as Boyd. However studying abroad for even six weeks in the summer remains one of the most valuable experiences you can have during college.
Exploring the world
College students have taken classes overseas for decades. You’ve probably heard the cliché that the globe keeps shrinking so American colleges are finding new ways to introduce students to the rest of the world.
Dr. Ralph Wilcox provost and executive vice president at the University of South Florida (USF) says one of his school’s main goals is to prepare students to interact with those from other countries. Students at USF can learn foreign languages and meet students who come to Florida from abroad. They’re also required to take classes about how people relate to one another worldwide.
“We don’t consider this a frill or something extra,” Wilcox says. “We consider global experiences absolutely essential.”
Where can I go?
The best way to learn about another country is to live there yourself and the Institute of International Education says the number of Americans studying abroad has more than tripled over the last 20 years. More than 260000 American college students studied in another country during the 2007-2008 school year an increase of 8.5 percent over the prior year. Colleges offer study abroad programs in some of the more popular countries such as the United Kingdom Italy France Spain and Australia. But you can find study abroad programs in more unusual and far-flung places as well such as Bolivia Fiji South Korea Egypt Jamaica the Czech Republic and Austria to name just a few countries.
Some students get to do research in another country with a professor. Many professors lead classes over-seas. In one popular program at the University of Arizona students visit 10 countries in five weeks for lessons about medieval Europe.
“Students are taking notes on the steps of the cathedrals they’re talking about,” says Eric Deschamps student exchange coordinator at the University of Arizona. “Europe is their classroom.”
This year over 300 Americans spent time studying at the University of Canterbury (UC) in Christchurch New Zealand. They were drawn there for many reasons says Julie Allan international marketing officer for UC. For one the university is a 20-minute drive to the beach and about 90 minutes away from skiing. New Zealand’s location makes it a rich place to study geography biology and other subjects.
“Many of our study abroad students will take a course or two on Maori language and culture or something like New Zealand literature,” Allan says.
How long should I go?
Some students spend a semester in another country while others go during summer or winter breaks. Credits earned overseas can count directly toward graduation or may have to be transferred but be sure to check with your school first.
Some adventurous Americans spend their entire college career at a school in another country — and in nations like the U.K. it usually takes just three years to earn a bachelor’s degree. New Zealand is another one of those countries and 24 Americans are currently working on undergraduate degrees at Canterbury Allan says.
Between 10 and 20 Americans enroll every year at the University of Glamorgan in Wales says Malcolm Taylor head of international recruitment. Several take advantage of specialized degrees like its chiropractic program.
Each year about six American students start the process of earning an undergraduate degree from Regent’s College in London says Maria Veiga-Sanchez head of international partnerships. She adds that some programs such as the arts programs at Regent’s are especially attractive to foreigners.
But most American students study abroad for a semester or a summer program. The United Kingdom and other European countries are popular because as Taylor says most Americans’ European ancestry is a connection to the continent.
“For many students it’s a potential opportunity to see where their ancestors came from,” he says.
Edith Nieves who graduated from the University of San Diego in 2010 says the two summers she spent in Mexico and her summer in Spain added value to her degrees in accounting and Spanish.
She took classes in both countries but also explored the countries on weekends along with a weekend excursion to Morocco. Time on both sides of the Atlantic allowed her to experience the distinct cultures of Mexico and Spain.
“It really helps you connect the dots when you’re studying international commerce,” Nieves says. “It really helps you see the bigger picture.”
When should I go?
Students usually go abroad during their junior or senior years and some foreign schools will only allow upperclassmen to do so. Regent’s for example requires anyone there for a study abroad experience to have finished at least one year of college. Still there’s no rule saying you have to wait.
“We recommend that students go abroad whenever it fits in their schedule,” Deschamps says. “We’ve seen everyone from second-semester freshmen to seniors.”
In January the University of San Diego will take every sophomore on three-week winter break trips to one of five destinations including France and England. They’ll take classes on subjects like religion and art history.
How will I pay?
If you’re worried about how you’ll pay for college studying abroad might seem out of reach. Students and college officials insist that’s not true.
“It all depends on the region you go to and the type of program you go on,” Deschamps says.
Going abroad will cost a bit more because you’ll probably need a plane ticket. But many colleges transfer financial aid overseas. Some offer scholarships just for studying abroad.
Nieves says spending summers in other countries was more affordable than a whole semester. She also had a paid internship for more than two years at San Diego’s study abroad office which helped finance her own trips.
If you need some extra money the governments often allow study abroad students to work. For example the U.K. government allows foreigners to work if they stay for more than six months Taylor says. In New Zealand foreign students can work up to 20 hours each week.
The world on campus
Studying abroad isn’t the only way to gain global knowledge. You can major in fields like international relations international business or comparative cultures and politics. You might also major in a language like Arabic Chinese or Russian. Or you could move to a residence hall floor focused on international affairs or foreign language.
Many colleges offer ways for students from all majors to learn about the world without leaving campus. For example Dr. Carl Jubran associate provost for international affairs at the University of San Diego urges faculty to schedule guest lectures by professors from other countries.
Jubran says this gives students a great opportunity to learn how they can make the world a better place.
For example every year the university’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice hosts a group of women working for peace in their home countries like Liberia India and the Philippines. During their stay at San Diego these women share their stories with groups on and off campus.
San Diego also has institutes dedicated to peace and justice and collaboration across the U.S.-Mexico border. These centers invite speakers from other countries so students can listen to their lectures on what’s happening abroad.
South Florida’s Confucius Institute hosts evenings where students come to speak Chinese learn about the Chinese culture and meet professors from China. The school also has outreach initiatives on India and Japan so students can learn about those countries as well. That knowledge will help students who travel abroad later.
“Being successful and navigating another country particularly a non-English-speaking non-Western country can be a challenge” Wilcox says. “By the time they get there it’s not a cultural shock.”