Visiting foreign countries is one thing almost all college students would like to experience, but sometimes they feel they lack the guidance or finances to do so.
ASU, in partnership with the Institute of International Education (IIE) is looking to change that. According to the IIE, less than a tenth of all U.S. college students study abroad during their collegiate experience.
IIE’s Open Doors Report on International and Educational Exchange study found that only 295,000 students studied abroad during the 2011/2012 school year. As part of its Generation Study Abroad initiative, the organization has pledged to grow those numbers to 600,000 nationally.
“What IIE basically said is that in five years they want to double the amount of us students studying abroad,” says Jennifer Malerich, senior director for curricular activities and action at ASU. “So we’ve committed to a 20 percent increase in our student population studying abroad during that time frame.”
Malerich says studying abroad offers students an opportunity to develop themselves and learn new skills that will be applicable in their academic, professional and personal lives.
“By developing intercultural competencies and global skills, they’ll be able to use those competencies and skills in all areas of life in their futures,” she says.
Malerich speaks from personal experience. She has been in three study abroad programs that have taken her to European countries, including Italy and Spain.
“Each one of those experiences was really different and changed me in different ways,” she says.
ASU is committed to decreasing both the academic and financial barriers that students might feel about studying abroad.
To do so, Malerich says the study abroad office is urging students to start thinking about studying abroad as early as orientation during their freshman year at ASU.
“The earlier you start planning, the better that you are going to be able to fit that experience in with your academic experience and remain on track for graduation,” she says.
This tactic will allow students to effectively strategize how to have the best experience, choose the available classes overseas that will meet their ASU requirements, allow them to save money and set up a financial plan so their trip can be as lengthy as possible.
What you need to do
ASU’s Study Abroad Office has numerous online resources for students to start planning their future trip.
To begin planning, you should attend a Study Abroad 101 seminar, which is led by a peer advisor and covers the fundamentals. Students will learn about the program types, housing options, requirements and financial realities of studying in a foreign land. Held several days a week, the schedule is available on the Study Abroad Office’s website at studyabroad.asu.edu.
The next step is choosing the program that is right for you. While many students have the traditional options in mind (we’re talking Paris, London, Florence), Malerich says potential enrollees should consider other factors.
“I would encourage students to really think outside the box and look for locations that might not be immediately coming to mind,” she says. “Because they might find that those either match their academic program a little bit better or they’re going to get a different or more wide-reaching experience on those non-traditional locations.”
It’s always smart to make an appointment with an international coordinator at the Study Abroad Office. Once you’ve singled out what programs you might be interested in, the coordinator will walk you through the steps for applying and successfully enrolling in a study abroad program.
They are also able to conduct meetings in person, on the phone or via Skype.
As mentioned, studying abroad takes planning and time. For the summer and fall terms, application deadlines are generally March 1, while the spring semester require your information in by September 25.
Although a passport isn’t required to apply, it is required to actually get into the country of your choosing and study there. Obtaining a new passport generally takes a month, so plan ahead.
Consider financial aid options to fund your trip abroad. There are many scholarships and grants available through ASU’s Scholarships at a Glance Chart that may help make the financial burden easier. Taking a part time-job as you plan won’t hurt either.
And it always helps to be safe. Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program through the State Department, which will assist you more effectively if there are emergencies where you are traveling to or back home with your family. Also, check out the laws of the country you will be visiting, as being American will not shield you from repercussions.
While it seems like a mound of work, studying abroad is well worth it.
“In terms of overall experience, everyone who’s come back from studying broad has said that studying abroad has changed their life,” says Malerich. “That’s an overarching theme.”
Where would you want to study abroad and why?