IPO making studying abroad for all students possible

By Kelsey Hebert

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The International Programs Office, or IPO, at the University of Massachusetts aims to make students’ study abroad dreams realities. With its two divisions – the Education Abroad and the International Student and Scholar Services offices – IPO helps UMass students study abroad while also helping international students come to the University.

UMass students begin the study abroad process by making their first appointment with an Education Abroad advisor, which is typically a student advisor who has worked with the IPO office before. The student advisor helps sort out what type of program will be best for a student or decide on an area of the world the student wishes to study.

When that decision is made, the student meets with a staff advisor. Staff advisors make sure a student is cleared to study abroad in regards to behavior, medical clearance and academic record.

“Students that we send abroad are representing UMass,” Vice Provost and Director of International Programs Jack Ahern said. “We would never shut the door on a student who has had a past of bad behavior or grades, but we do make sure that they can be responsible for their academics and their behavior for at least a whole semester before they are cleared to go abroad.”

UMass students have a number of options for studying abroad. From typical European endeavors like Spain and Italy to more unique travel experiences like Botswana and Tanzania, the University offers hundreds of destinations for students looking to fulfil their wish to travel.

Students receive academic credit for the courses they studied, assuming the department of their major approves the courses taken. Getting classes approved by an advisor before studying abroad is an important step to make sure you are not wasting your time and your money overseas.
Studying abroad can also be a good addition to a resume, providing valuable experience and knowledge of other cultures and broadening one’s perspective. This is especially important for those studying a language, as going abroad can help improve foreign language skills while simultaneously immersing the student in the native culture.

Studying abroad is also relatively affordable. Financial aid and scholarships are available for those who are unable to pay, but tuition, fees and housing vary based on the location of study. Some study abroad options are even cheaper than studying at UMass, although many are more expensive when taking into account fees for travel, obtaining a passport and personal spending. The University also works with third-party providers from other universities where a student pays UMass tuition while studying elsewhere.

Students who are unable to spend an entire semester or year in a different country can take part in short-term faculty-led programs that usually run one to six weeks. These programs typically run during winter vacation, spring break or various times throughout the summer and are much more cost effective.
As of now, approximately 1,200 UMass students study abroad each year, according to Ahern. He said the top five destinations are Spain, Italy, England, Australia and Germany. China and Japan are also popular destinations for students studying Chinese and Japanese.

Ahern said there are approximately 1,900 international students studying at UMass this semester – about 1,500 graduate students and about 400 undergraduates. The most common places with incoming international students are China, India, Korea and Middle Eastern countries like Iran and Turkey. Over 100 countries are represented in the UMass population, according to Ahern.

Ahern said UMass is working to increase the amount of undergraduate international students. The University conducts online recruiting and will begin on site, in person recruiting in China and India within the next year. UMass wants to increase the amount of undergraduate students to diversify the population of students that study here.

“I am proud to say that we never go after international students for their tuition, we want them here to enrich the population at UMass,” Ahern said.

IPO encourages any students who want to study abroad to come talk to an advisor at any time to start planning, even if they don’t know where they would like to study. Although the IPO typically sends students abroad in their junior year for reasons of academic and personal maturity, it is possible to study earlier or later.

Kelsey Hebert can be reached at [email protected]