By Chris Russell
It’s crunch time for students planning to study abroad this summer.
Lorie Paulez, the assistant director for education abroad, says that the choice to study abroad is a choice well-worth making. She states, “[Studying abroad] isn’t just a line on a resumé now. Originally, people thought that studying abroad was just something to put on a resumé and point to, but more and more now, employers are looking for individuals who can cope in an international situation.”
For students considering studying abroad, one perennial concern is always present: money. Susan Pratt, the director of education abroad at Tech, tells students not to worry about the cost.
She states, “There are several programs where, if you do a cost-comparison, it might be the same as actually staying on campus, with just a few additional traveling expenses…[In addition,] there are opportunities out there for students to do research on scholarships that might be available for them.
We also work with students to make sure the financial aid they already have goes with them abroad, and we do as much as we can to inform them about how to use their financial aid.”
Paulez also comments on another common perception about studying abroad: that it forces students to push back their graduation date: “It’s one of the big myths we try to dispel at every marketing event we have. [Studying abroad] does not add extra time to your degree.”
Pratt elaborates, “[It used to be] that students would be afraid they’d have to push back graduation, but that really doesn’t happen in study abroad anymore. What Tech tries to do is really integrate it so much into the curriculum that it’s not seen as an add-on, but simply another piece of the curriculum.
“If students do their research and start early enough, they won’t extend the duration of their education.”
Both Pratt and Paulez emphasize that it’s important for students to thoroughly look into the programs they are considering, not only for how the curriculum fits into each students study plans, but also at the format of each program and at the host country’s culture.
Before committing to a program, students should ask themselves how the classes they will take will help forward their education, whether the culture they will be immersed in is one they feel compatible with, and how much structure they want to have.
Pratt states, “The nice thing about Tech is that it offers a very nice range of programs. For instance, you’ve got your faculty-led programs, which consist of faculty taking a group of students abroad, where students take classes taught by faculty from Tech.
These are shorter term programs, and tend to be in the summer, ranging from 4-10 weeks. Students really like the idea of these programs because [the classes] are taught by Tech faculty members, they want to go over with other Tech students and have that community to live in, or they want a short term program.
“The other type of program, which is very different, would be an exchange, which would be over a longer term, a semester or a year. You may be the only [Tech] person at that institution. Basically, it’s for the more independent students. [Exchanges] are also great for immersion and for learning a language, since the longer term gives you a chance to speak that language everyday and take your classes in them if you’re proficient.”
One criterion they caution against, however, is picking a program based solely on what your friends have done or are doing.
Many Tech students use this as their only method of selection and still enjoy their time abroad, but not every program is suitable for every student. Paulez states, “Don’t go on a program just because your friend says you should, what’s right for your friend isn’t necessarily right for you.”
As a last bit of advice, Paulez encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to travel abroad while they can. “I’ve talked to so many people that have graduated, and they say that’s the one thing they’ve regretted about their college experience, is that they didn’t take advantage of their abroad program. Once you graduate, you have to work, so you’d have to take vacation to go, and you can’t get federal funding anymore.”