Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Time to travel abroad

By Sara Crossman

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It’s time to start thinking about studying abroad.  It might be a little late for next semester, depending on the program you decide to use, but there is plenty of time for next spring or beyond.  If you are interested, the first step is to visit the International Programs Office (IPO) in Hills South or online at Hills South has students who have gone abroad available to talk about the places you want to go, as well as full-time staff members who are geographically divided into different regions of the world.

There are lots of different ways to study abroad. There are many study programs run through the University of Massachusetts itself, there are some run through other universities, there are independent programs and there is also direct enrollment in which you enroll in a foreign university as a regular student. 

When you look into these programs you’ll see that there is a lot of variety. As one is going abroad, communication can be an impediment if you aren’t fluent in another language. However, there are many programs in English-speaking countries, some with a combination of classes in English and a foreign language, and then there are language pledge programs where you only speak a foreign language. If you do not know which you want, IPO can help you decide.

Another consideration is if you want to be in a major city or in a more rural area. Obviously, the city provides a lot of opportunities and access to modern amenities you might not be able to get in a more rural area. Cities are also often cultural centers that allow foreigners to visit famous museums, monuments and historical sites. And generally, cities house more expatriates, allowing you to find English speakers more easily.

Rural areas, on the other hand, allow for a more authentic and common person experience. In the case of language study, there are fewer opportunities to speak English, and thus, very helpful to progress. But in either case you will find that there is the opportunity to travel to other places in your host country, and, depending on where you are, other countries. This means that there is no bad choice for study abroad location.

Another aspect in study abroad programs is whether you would like to do a home stay, live in an apartment, or live in a dorm. Some programs may limit your choice in the matter, but you have the ability to choose which program and maintain a preference. A home stay is when you live with a host family in the country in which you are studying. Many people who have done home stays have said they thought that it was an authentic experience by getting to know local people in a way they couldn’t have if they hadn’t done a home stay.

Living in an apartment allows you to be significantly more independent. You often have your own room, but you usually have roommates with whom you share a kitchen and bathroom.  This option is often found in European countries. Living in a dorm is very much like living in a dorm here; depending on the program you may or may not have a roommate that you share a room with, but there are rules about living in the dorm.

Most of the students thinking about study abroad are freshman and sophomores, but are sometimes juniors and seniors. Just because you’re graduating does not mean you can’t study abroad.  Most programs are open to everyone, not just currently enrolled students, so if you’re not sure what to do after you graduate, consider taking classes abroad, studying a language, doing an internship abroad, or even teaching English abroad (you are usually not required to have a degree in English or any teaching experience).

For those of you not graduating this year, you should seriously consider studying abroad. Every year over 1,000 UMass students study abroad, and you can, too.  There is a myth that study abroad is only for certain majors, but you can talk to IPO and professors in your major about which programs UMass accepts credits from.  If you really think you’ve got too much on your plate to take a semester or a year off, consider doing a summer or winter program. 

One prohibiting factor, and an important consideration, is the cost. Studying abroad generally costs about the same as one semester at UMass, though there is some fluctuation in costs because of different economies and because of plane tickets that can it more expensive.  Financial aid can be used for study abroad, and the Financial Aid Office runs several workshops every semester about what you need to know about using the money you already receive for study abroad. 

There are also scholarships available through IPO specified to certain majors, colleges inside UMass and the programs you apply to.  Many external scholarships available through the government, organizations or companies you might work for.

There is a lot to think about, but this is a great experience to put on your résumé, and it will help you stand out in this tough job market. Most importantly, it’s the experience of a lifetime. I have personally studied abroad twice, and I would recommend it in a heartbeat.  Seriously consider this opportunity to enhance your education, learn about a new culture and have a great time.

Sara Crossman is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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