Imagine studying laser physics and optoelectronics in a 580-year-old university on the coast of Scotland; or business in the Central American nation of Costa Rica; or natural sciences in mountainous Besancon, France.
Kansas University students can do more than imagine those faraway places. The university's study abroad programs offer a multitude of opportunities for students to see the world while working toward a college degree.
Mary Elizabeth Debicki, director of KU's Office of Study Abroad (OSA), urges all students to consider spending a semester, academic year or summer in another country.
"We encourage students to begin thinking about it before they even register at KU," she said. "We firmly believe that study abroad is an essential part of education."
The study abroad office, located in 203 Lippincott Hall, provides a number of services to students planning to study abroad.
THE SERVICES include pre-departure orientation; financial aid advising; advice on fee payment, housing and transportation, course planning and credit evaluation; welcome and arrangements for incoming undergraduate exchange students; advising on grants for graduate study abroad and aid in writing grant proposals; and support of the Study Abroad Club.
Students can choose from almost 50 countries and a bevy of academic subjects. Most credit hours earned during study abroad apply toward graduation requirements, and even though KU requires degree candidates to take their last 30 hours at the Lawrence campus, those earned through the study abroad program still count.
"You're technically still a KU student," Debicki explained.
There's also plenty of financial aid available for students interested in an international experience.
BUT DEBICKI said that studying abroad is generally less expensive than paying out-of-state tuition at KU and only slightly higher than in-state costs. With study abroad, the same costs apply to in-state and out-of-state students.
"Some students' parents pay for school so students don't realize how much it costs to go to KU, so they automatically think it's too expensive to go abroad," she said. "I like to say that the cost is an investment in your future."
Students in any major at KU can study abroad, Debicki said. Some departments have certain stipulations, but they're never unreasonable.
Only about 600 students took advantage of study abroad opportunities offered through KU last year. "We think it's a very, very, very small amount," Debicki said. "We can easily send 2,500 students or more a year. We are falling behind the national average and that breaks my heart because for a long time, KU has been consistently a leader in study abroad."
IN FACT, KU was a leader in establishing a study abroad program in cooperation with the University of Costa Rica in San Jose. The program attracts a high number of applicants each year. Last year, 90 students applied for 50 slots.
Debicki said the most popular destinations among study abroad students are those countries where English is spoken, such as Australia, Wales or England; or where the classes are taught in English, including as Denmark, Sweden and Malta.
However, many students have voiced an interest in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and other European countries.
KU is working to strengthen its ties with several universities around the globe, and one way to do that is to encourage students to take classes at those schools, Debicki said. Schools where KU is seeking closer ties include Kanagawa University in Hiratsuka, Japan, (a Lawrence sister city); the Universite of Franche-Comte in Besancon, France (near the Swiss border); the University of Warsaw in Poland; and several universities in the People's Republic of China.
Four new study abroad courses are in the planning stages, Debicki said. Those are:
A semester in London for law students to study comparative law.
An advanced art and design course in Bath, England.
A western civilization course in Florence, Italy, and Paris, France.
An archaeology field camp in Costa Rica, where KU and the University of Costa Rica plan to reforest and redevelop an area that once was a major banana growing area.
"There's something for everyone from the student who just wants to learn a language to the student who wants to do in-depth research," Debicki said.