Study exposes different determining factors for study abroad choices

By Charlotte Kenyon

Nick O'Malley/Collegian
Over 1,000 students each and every year are able to leave the lecture halls and textbooks behind at University of Massachusetts and immerse themselves in a new culture, lifestyle and form of education while studying abroad. But this opportunity is not as easy as purchasing a plane ticket and packing a bag.

A recent study performed by the British Council, focuses extensively on the determining factors 150,000 college students from 200 countries hold most important before making a decision to study abroad.

In the study results, released on Sept. 30, 59 percent of students polled said that the “quality of their education” abroad was the most important determining factor in selecting a legitimate school; 26.3 percent also value the reputation of the selected university in both, the United States and the foreign country.

Dr. Frank Hugus, Director of International Programs at UMass Amherst, agreed that educational benefit and value is one of the most important factors in an international education.

“I think the education abroad advisors are very good at what they do, and recommend academic value,” he said.

He also described how most students that inquire and pursue their abroad interests are generally more focused on their studies, and that other factors are taken into consideration.

“It is an evaluative process; we have to consider G.P.A.’s, whether or not students will be good representatives of UMass and of the country,” he said.

One out of every 10 participants in the survey revealed that the price and their financial standings were more important in selecting an abroad program, rather than the education they would be receiving.

Here at UMass, Hugus explained that a global education is not limited to only wealthier students, and that the goal is to expand services to all interested students.

“Our first priority is to make programs accessible,” he said.

There are many opportunities to compete for a scholarship or grant to study abroad, as well as even receive in-state tuition costs for an international experience.

“Programs are also offered for the summer or during spring break from seven to 10 days, for a more reasonable cost,” said Hugus.

Despite current financial hardship for many students and their families in recent years, Hugus has seen that the “trend is slightly upward” in students’ interest in studying abroad.

Hugus said that students that study abroad not only come back with a more unique educational experience for a reasonable price, but also the satisfaction of giving back to their home abroad.

He added that the students who study abroad learn skills that will be applicable to situations and beneficial in the long run.

“Students can make a tremendous difference,” said Hugus “One student from UMass was able to help teach at a local school in South Africa.”

Depending on the location the student chooses, he or she can participate in volunteer activities and can find endless opportunities to be more involved in the community.

Overall, Hugus believes that the study abroad program at UMass “enhances understanding of the world we live in and is a broadening and enriching experience.”

With his own personal experience of studying abroad, he said “the experience changed [his] view on life.”

He added that the benefits of international study are immeasurable, and that students will develop personally over time. Students will not only gain the experience of a new culture and way of learning but also will “mature quite a bit,” according to Hugus, and generally tend to improve their G.P.A.’s during their abroad studies and after their return home. It is a popular and enriching opportunity for students to not only find themselves, but also “increase appreciation of other people.”

Charlotte Kenyon can be reached at [email protected]