Study abroad fair a gateway to travel
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 07:10
The Australian Outback, Machu Picchu in the Andes of Peru or the gorgeous beaches of the Greek islands – wherever in the world students want to go, West Virginia University’s Office of International Programs can make it happen.
The Office of International Programs will hold its biannual study abroad fair Oct. 3 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in the WVU Mountainlair Ballroom.
Every year between 800 and 1,000 students from WVU study abroad. This number seems large, but it is only 3 percent of the student body at the University.
WVU’s Director of Study Abroad, Tara George-Jones, explained that there are a few reasons students don’t study abroad.
"We call them the F’s. First one would be finances," George-Jones said.
Many students don’t think studying abroad is financially feasible, but it’s actually the opposite, she said, especially through the exchange programs where university students literally swap places with a student in another country. They pay the same tuition, room and board, and fees they would be paying in their home country.
Their only new expense is the airplane ticket.
In some cases, students can pay less studying abroad than what they pay in Morgantown. Most financial aid and scholarships, including West Virginia’s Promise Scholarship, apply to these trips. In addition to current scholarships, students can apply for grants such as the Fulbright Scholarship.
"There’s also the Eberly scholarship that the university offers, which is $500 per student to study abroad. There’s others depending on what department you’re in," said Jason Burns, a faculty led programs assistant.
The second F stands for "fit." Many students think that they won’t academically fit into a program, and they will have to prolong their stay at WVU, George-Jones said.
"You can make it fit your academics. You just might not be able to go to your dream location," George-Jones said. "If they go for academic fit, it won’t prolong over time."
The third and final F is being afraid to leave friends and family – or "fear."
"You’re going to grow, so it kind of makes sense to go," she said.
There are many more reasons you would want to. For example, studying abroad makes students more marketable. In today’s globalized world, an international focus is almost a necessity.
Studying abroad gives students the skills to work and communicate with people of other ethnicities, languages and lifestyles.
Tailoring a trip to complement major requirements is a benefit, she said. Beyond the obvious language majors, studying history in Rome, fashion design in Paris, business in Hong Kong or wildlife and fisheries in Manaus, Brazil, looks great on a resume.
George-Jones said meeting new people, trying new foods, seeing new sites and gaining a new perspective about the United States all shape students who study abroad.
"It broadens your horizons. It makes you comfortable with who you are. It makes you think about the U.S. in a different light because the way the world sees us is not the way we see ourselves," George-Jones said. "It definitely makes you grow up."
Burns said the experience of study abroad is one that is incomparable and can shape a student’s perspective.
"Do it. I think that’s the whole point is to get yourself out there, get out of your comfort zone, do something, go somewhere you never thought you would go or someplace you’ve always wanted to go," she said.
Students who study abroad often become addicted to travel for life.
"The rest of your life, that’s what you’ll want to do," Burns said. "You’ll definitely get the travel bug."
To learn more about studying abroad or the study abroad fair, contact the Office of International Programs by phone at 304-293-6955 or by email OIP@mail.wvu.edu.