By Kristen Pinto
The Department of International Education was recently granted $10,000 from the office of Academic Affairs to create more scholarships and increase affordability of studying abroad for students.
This year, more FSU students are participating in study abroad programs than ever before.
“There’s really some place for every student and every major who wants to participate at an affordable price,” said Jane Decatur, director of international education.
In the fall of 2009, 15 FSU students studied abroad. This fall, the numbers have almost doubled – 27 student are studying abroad. In the spring of 2010, there were 18 students in other countries, and this upcoming spring, there will be 33.
The $10,000 grant was awarded last May, according to the minutes of the May 7, 2014 academic affairs committee of the board of trustees meeting. The first awards will be granted to students who will be studying abroad this upcoming spring, and 15 have already applied.
“Study abroad has a reputation of being an expensive luxury,” said Decatur. “It really doesn’t have to be expensive, and it isn’t a luxury.”
FSU is partnered with over 100 programs around the world, ranging in affordability. It is the only public university in Massachusetts that is a member of ISEP, the International Student Exchange Program, which gives students access to 53 countries around the world.
Bram Lamberts, a senior geography major, is one student who is studying at FSU through the ISEP program. In exchange, an FSU student is studying abroad at the University he attended in The Netherlands.
“ISEP is sponsored by the government, so it was easier to get into the U.S.,” Lamberts said.
Overall, Lamberts said he is having a good experience here so far.
“The only thing I don’t like is that there were only a few international students at orientation,” he said. “There was no group of friends to start out with. I was lucky enough to find a great group of friends who I have stuck with, but it would have been nice to have more friends in my situation.”
Decatur said that “all students who are interested in studying abroad are made aware of all scholarships that exist for study abroad,” including the school’s own funds and outside scholarships as well.
FSU also offers special exchange programs in which students can attend universities all over the world and will only have to pay FSU tuition, fees and sometimes housing charges. Once they get to their exchange school, the only added expenses are for meals, travel, books and leisure.
Some students have experienced problems while studying abroad. Thomas Barry, a senior economics major, spent his entire sophomore year studying abroad in England. When he got there, he spent his first three weeks with no money and no access to his room.
“FSU paid the financial aid three weeks late, so I was not technically enrolled at the school when I got there,” Barry said. “They gave me temporary access to my room, but I couldn’t go to my classes for the first few weeks.”
Barry said that as a result of these issues, he struggled during his first semester of classes.
“I missed the whole overview of the course structure,” he said.
However, he said he is still grateful for the experience and everything that he took away from it.
“I made a couple of good friends and just being a part of the culture for that long was awesome,” Barry said. “It forced me to grow up and become independent at a much younger age.”
Decatur said making study abroad more affordable to students has been her goal since starting at FSU because she believes it is important for students to have this kind of experience.
The office of international education is currently working on several new affiliations, including
connections with institutions in Ecuador and Puerto Rico.
“The world is a very small place, and it gets smaller every year,” Decatur said. “In order to become a global citizen in that world, it is important to understand different cultures. ... [Studying abroad] enhances and expands your major.”
Avarie Cook, a junior communication arts major, is studying film in Prague, Czech Republic. She said she will come back to the U.S. feeling much more culturally aware.
“Not only am I getting very used to the Czech culture, but Prague is a place for many different cultures to come to and I’m meeting many other Europeans,” Cook said. “It’s a very humbling experience to see what other countries think about America and see yourself and your own culture from another perspective.”
Brenna Hinson, a junior communication arts major, is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and is enjoying every minute of her time there.
“My time here in Florence, Italy has been the most amazing time of my life,” Hinson said. “The things that you are able to see can’t ever be described in words or pictures. It’s simply just too beautiful.”
She added, “I am only halfway through and I have already seen what feels like the whole world. I never regret this decision to study abroad and I never will because I have grown into such a better person because of it.”
“It’s an adventure I think everyone should take the opportunity to do. You learn a lot about a different world and also you learn a lot about yourself and where you see your life going,” Hinson said.