Regan Lehman didn't know if she could spend 2 1/2 months studying overseas. She figured it would be too expensive and she wouldn't be able to spend that much time away from family and friends.
Then Lehman, Lawrence junior, traveled to Paris and Florence as part of Kansas University's study-abroad program. When the program ended, she had a difficult time returning home.
"I just loved it," she said. "The minute I stepped off the plane, I loved it."
According to the Office of Study Abroad, 1,141 KU students studied internationally in the 2000-2001 school year. Another 350 students at other universities took classes through KU's program.
"I think studying abroad is probably the single most important thing a student can do to change their outlook on the world," said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, the office's director. "I think our world is changed, and people understand that. We're becoming more accommodating of more peoples and more cultures. Part of it is communications the better ability to communicate through the Internet and economics. We sell worldwide and people worldwide sell here."
KU offers about 70 study-abroad programs in 55 countries. New offerings include a general program in Trier, Germany, a business program in Paris and a chemistry program in Dublin City, Ireland.
Students can study overseas for a few weeks or months, a semester or year.
Gronbeck-Tedesco said the short-term programs were usually led in English by KU faculty.
Longer-term programs which are typically taught in the native language by faculty from foreign institutions "allow a more in-depth understanding of the culture," she said.
They also are more expensive. While short-term programs begin at just more than $1,000, a yearlong program can cost $10,000 or more.
A few scholarships, ranging from $250 to $1,500, are available for students wanting to study abroad. About 10 percent of students usually receive a scholarship, but officials are working to increase that number through fund raising with the KU Endowment Association.
"The main thing students tell us that hampers them from study abroad is the cost," Gronbeck-Tedesco said.
Despite the world turmoil and the 2001 murder of Shannon Martin, a former study-abroad student conducting research in Costa Rica, safety concerns apparently haven't hurt the programs' numbers, Gronbeck-Tedesco said.
Applications were up slightly for the summer program and were about even for the fall semester.
Checklist for Study Abroad
The first step in studying abroad is to contact a peer adviser in the Office of Study Abroad. The adviser can help students with their choice of destination and length of program.
All students studying abroad must participate in a one-day orientation program that includes dealing with culture shock, health, academics, money and packing.
Students also meet with a KU faculty member with expertise in the area where they'll be traveling.
The orientation now includes more information about safety than it did in the past. Some programs including the Costa Rica program now include in-country safety sessions.
For Johanna Maska, studying abroad has been a practical way to complete course credits while having fun.
Maska, Galesburg, Ill., sophomore, went to Spain in summer 2001 and is in Cambridge, England, this summer. The Spain program was about six weeks of classes.
"I wanted to get some credit hours and get a unique experience out of it," she said.
Maska said she stayed in touch with some of the students she had met in Spain.
"I'd definitely recommend it," she said. "I think it takes a strong person, but it makes you stronger in the process."