Yesterday my husband and I returned from a nine-day trip to Ireland and came home with more than 600 pictures, lots of stories and experiences to last a lifetime. The Emerald Isle is certainly rich in history, full of friendly people and the countryside is breathtaking. Along the way we saw many large groups of American college students, some led by faculty and others on their own, discovering the Irish culture first-hand. Studying abroad is not right for everyone, but for those who want the international experience there are plentiful options.
Today there are several types of study abroad experiences: full year, semester, and school break faculty led options. Before selecting a program, students should work closely with their advisors, particularly those studying engineering, nursing, science and architecture, to ensure that they stay on track for graduation. Colleges frequently offer programs that are major specific so students can fulfill requirements in their academic concentrations while abroad. Georgia Tech offers semester exchange programs overseas where students can fulfill their liberal arts requirements and concentrate on language fluency. Tech also offers its own GT summer programs with engineering coursework in France, London and Beijing so students can stay on track for graduation.
There are some majors where students are strongly encouraged to study abroad, to gain firsthand knowledge in their area of study. Foreign languages, architecture and art history are examples of disciplines where the location and surroundings enrich classroom learning. Syracuse University’s Florence program is geared towards students studying architecture, design, studio art and engineering.
Many schools are offering an abroad experience as early as first semester freshman year and are actually accepting students to begin their university or college studies on an overseas campus. Marist College offers a Freshman Florence Experience. The program is designed for students to complete their foundation coursework in Italy. NYU offers London, Florence, and Paris first year experiences. These programs are designed for liberal studies students and run the full academic year. Other schools such as Colby College in Maine offer a global entry semester as an alternative freshman start. Students are accepted to the college with the understanding that they must begin their freshman year in a language-intensive program in Salamanca, Spain or Dijon, France. To be considered for these programs, students can identify their interest on their freshman application.
In most cases financial aid can be applied to study abroad programs. Students and families are advised to speak with the financial aid office at their college or university to review the institution’s financial aid study abroad policies before committing to the program. Always consider the additional expenses that are not covered such as daily transportation, weekend meals and excursions. Some colleges offer financial incentives (scholarships) designated specifically for study abroad experiences. This is usually a $3,000-$5,000 financial award that can help defray additional costs.
Studying abroad can be a wonderful, mind-broadening opportunity. (I must admit I wish I had taken advantage of this when I was in college.) When searching for the right fit college research the many study abroad opportunities available and learn how they can fit into your proposed academic plans. For those heading overseas this summer or fall, bon voyage and safe travels.
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