Money obstacle tackled for prospective study-abroad students

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Studying abroad isn’t as out of reach as students may think.

Price is often the biggest obstacle when it comes to spending time abroad, but there are multiple ways to fund a study abroad trip, and the skills students gain from their experiences can set them apart from other graduates. Plus, students can get credit for studying abroad.

Tory Leech, the study abroad program coordinator, said financial aid, scholarships from the university, grants — and scholarships from the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), can all help fund a trip abroad.

“[Studying abroad] is life changing,” Leech said. “Even if you can only go for two weeks, it will change your perception on life. Being able to immerse yourself in another culture will definitely change your world perspective.”

Leech said studying abroad is something unique to put on a resume, and other countries provide research opportunities not available in the U.S. For example, DSU’s trip to Costa Rica last year allowed environmental science students to study an environment radically different from St. George’s.

Some trips abroad are a semester long, some a year, and others are just a few weeks in the summer. These trips are mainly led by third party groups like the USAC or faculty, and they can all be for credit; however, the amount of credit depends on the length of the trip and whether it is service or strictly schooling.

Dr. Peter Gitau, vice president of student affairs, conducted a faculty-led trip to Kenya last year, and around ten students came with Gitau. He built the trip around three components: university learning, service to a village and a travel safari. 

This two-and-a-half week service-learning trip was planned to help students become culturally competent while helping the community. The group helped teach at primary schools, raised money for the community through car washes and selling raffle tickets, and stayed with a host family to help with chores.

Maitlyn Johnson, a sophomore integrated studies major from Bountiful, was one of the students who traveled to Kenya. Her favorite part of the trip was teaching at the primary school. One day while teaching English class, she read a story where there was an activity to make a kite.

“I had to search for a good 30 minutes to find supplies to make a kite,” Johnson said. “I ended up using [the school’s] correction sticks, which were used to beat the kids if they were bad, to make the frame of the kite.”

Johnson funded the trip with her FASFA.

“There is no way I would have been able to afford the trip if it wasn’t for the fact I had just gotten a ton of grant money from the government,” Johnson said. “I had to fill out a special circumstances form for FAFSA because my parents income had decreased dramatically. So they ended up reimbursing me…and I used all that money to go on this trip.” 

Johnson said studying abroad was the greatest experience of her life.

“[Studying abroad] stretches you beyond your imagination,” Gitau said. “If you’ve always grown up around people who look like you, or think like you or speak like you, then what happens is after you graduate you are in a world where you don’t have the skill set to be successful. Study abroad helps you gain the skills to work with different cultures and people.”

Gitau said study abroad can also help students develop perseverance. Especially over a long trip when students want to quit, and they have to find the will to stay and continue to learn.

“America is huge, and many times you don’t learn about people from outside of the U.S.,” Gitau said. “Many times our perceptions are very stereotyped because we haven’t been there, but when you go to a place and experience it, then that stereotype is broken — and that is of immense value.”

The study abroad trips for this year have not been released yet, but the possible destinations will be available in mid-October. For more information on study abroad, visit studyabroad.dixie.edu.