Study abroad opportunities limitless

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For the faculty who put together voyages overseas, the waters are anything but calm.

Opportunities to study abroad introduce students to other societies while they continue to work toward their degree, but can prove challenging to faculty who direct the programs.

“One of the biggest hurdles I think that I have faced trying to plan study abroad [trips] is gauging where students want to go,” said Peter Gitau, vice president of student affairs and director of the study abroad trip to Kenya in June.

Kelly Bringhurst, the department chair for physical sciences and professor of geology, is directing a study abroad trip to Costa Rica. Bringhurst said the process begins with a proposal in front of the department chair and the dean. If the proposal is approved, it is voted on by the Global Engagement Committee.

“When you travel internationally now, [the process] also includes that the president [of the university] signs off,” Bringhurst said. “There’s certain countries that are on a watch list that you’re not allowed to go to.”

Most of the countries on the watch list are within Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East due to contagious illnesses, civil unrest and increasing crime rates.

Gitau said,while most people think of third-world countries as dangerous, new insecurities are emerging in developed nations; there has been an increase in civil unrest in places like Paris and Berlin.

Bringhurst and Gitau both agree one of the biggest challenges for faculty is keeping the prices low enough for college students to afford while also covering the expenses of the trip.

“There’s a fee, and those need to be as accurate as possible,” Bringhurst said. “The budget needs a lot of work.”

Fees for trips depend on room and board expenses in the different countries.

Jade Jarvis, a freshman education major from Birmingham, said she has always been interested in studying abroad, but the cost is a deterrent.

“I love the idea of studying in a foreign country and helping people while I’m continuing my degree,” Jarvis said. “But it’s hard to pay a lot of money after all my financial aid is used up throughout my other two semesters.”

In the past, there have been no scholarships available for study abroad trips, but through Dixie State University, a new scholarship is accessible to students for the upcoming summer trips, Bringhurst said. The scholarship can cover up to $500 of the trip fee and the application is available on the travel study abroad travel study home page. The first deadline passed in February, but the second deadline ends on March 15.

“[The application] basically asks you where you’re going and why you want to go there,” Bringhurst said. “It asks you for your financial need… because that’s what it’s based on and then [the application] needs to be signed by whoever is leading the study abroad [trip].”

Bringhurst said the scholarship is not limited to study abroad programs but can also go toward service learning and active learning activities. The scholarship can be awarded to multiple students, and this year it will be awarded to about 20 students.

“[The honors program is] paying the way for study abroad [trips] for some of their students,” Bringhurst said.

Bringhurst said he has four students going on his study abroad trip to Costa Rica where the fee has already been paid for by the Honors Program. Craig and Maureen Booth funded the honors program established in their name to help students learn and develop while participating in creative opportunities.

“I think every student should [study abroad],” Gitau said. “It opens your horizons in a way that cannot be done when you are in your own little corner.”