Study abroad, exchange programs provide educational, challenging experience

Student admires the view at Machu Picchu. Students can go on the exchange program for one semester or just for a summer. Photo courtesy of Jenny Callahan.

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China, Peru, Japan and Rome are just a few of the exotic places that Dixie State University offers for exchange programs and summer learning programs. With rich cultures and intense learning environments, this could be the challenge you’re looking for.

These programs are meant to be educational but also eye-opening and challenging for students. There is a plethora of options that can fit each student’s needs and desires.

If a semester-long exchange program seems too long, students have the opportunity to do a summer program; however, the summer programs can cost a little more due to the shorter length of time spent and hotel costs, said Jenny Callahan, the study abroad program coordinator.

During the summer program, students are also accompanied by a faculty member.

“So, in one hour I was like, I’m just going to apply, and it was the best decision I ever made.”

Minta Wilcox, sophomore digital film major

Minta Wilcox, a sophomore digital film major from Gilbert, Arizona, was one student who chose a summer program.

“I came across [the China summer program] and it was really cheap and inexpensive,” Wilcox said. “So, in one hour I was like, I’m just going to apply, and it was the best decision I ever made.

For Wilcox, food was the most difficult part of traveling to China, along with the bathroom since “western” toilets were less common. If doing your business in a hole in the ground doesn’t sound like something tolerable, a more advanced location might be better.

One such location is Nagoya, Japan. There are students in Nagoya at the university who help DSU students get around and understand the culture a little more.

Callahan says the curriculum is not what is specifically most daunting rather the culture shock and dealing with being in a foreign country for months or even a full year, Callahan said.

“Don’t expect it to be perfect every time…you have to be fairly independent to begin with or really open yourself up to it,” Callahan said.

If you’re shy, fairly dependent and not a fan of change, neither of these programs will be for you, Callahan said. If those characteristics are not you, this could be the perfect way to start the travel bug and gain a new cultural understanding on a different college campus.

Two students who went to Meijo last spring semester enjoyed the trip so much they decided to stay all the way through August, totaling in a full year there. They left knowing around 300 words of “Kanji,” which is the written language of Japanese symbols, and gained an experience to add to their resumes, all while receiving school credit.

Mason McDonald, a junior Spanish major from St. George, took a study abroad trip to Peru during the summer of 2019. He said he received a scholarship from DSU and only spent roughly $300 of his own money on souvenirs and food.

This particular trip also did service projects in which the group helped the community where they were staying by doing repairs, manual labor and anything else that was needed.

The estimated cost of study abroad trips is up to $7,000, and the summer program trips costs up to $4,000. It sounds expensive, but DSU is working with other schools to make the cost more manageable.

In the Meijo, Japan exchange program, the cost of housing is cut in half to allow for students to even afford this program. In some exchange programs, part-time jobs are required to help offset the costs of living in another country.

Getting started is rather easy, but once it’s been started it’s a fast-paced acceptance or denial ride.

“Don’t expect it to be perfect every time…you have to be fairly independent to begin with or really open yourself up to it,”

Jenny callahan, Study abroad program coordinator

It begins with the simple online application, three letters of recommendation, and a resume to make sure that you have the skills necessary to travel and do the work.

After that is an interview process where you must meet face to face with the study abroad adviser so she can evaluate your goals and desires for the trip.

Next is the decision-making portion that takes a few days. If it’s the exchange program you want, beware that though you could be accepted by DSU, the other school can still reject you once you’ve been recommended.

For more information about study abroad programs visit https://studyabroad.dixie.edu/exchange-programs/

Scholarships and fundraising options are available on the DSU website outlining how to get started with the process.