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Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2012

Students broaden perspective through study abroad

Study abroad students visit the Male Mahadeshwara Hills in India. Kansas University’s study abroad office has 130 programs in more than 75 countries.

Study abroad students visit the Male Mahadeshwara Hills in India. Kansas University’s study abroad office has 130 programs in more than 75 countries.

August 19, 2012

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Here are the top seven study abroad locations for Kansas University students:

  • Italy
  • Short-term options such as the Humanities and Western Civilization program and the summer language institute in Florence are common among students who wish to get a taste of Italian culture and cuisine without staying an entire semester.
  • United Kingdom
  • If studying a foreign language isn’t your cup of tea, taking a semester abroad in the English-speaking United Kingdom might be a favorable option. Open to students of all majors.
  • Spain
  • Students who have taken two semesters of Spanish can attend the summer language institute in Barcelona and quickly fulfill their remaining language requirement.
  • France
  • French minors and majors study abroad for a semester at the Universite Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers. For students who would rather participate in a short-term program, the summer language institute and the Humanities and Western Civilization programs in Paris are alternatives.
  • Costa Rica
  • Popular since its founding in 1958 as the longest-running exchange program in the western hemisphere, KU students of all majors may study at the Universidad de Costa Rica in San José.
  • China
  • Because of China’s rapidly growing economy, this location is especially popular among business majors as well as students studying Mandarin or Cantonese.
  • Australia
  • No foreign language required and open to all majors. Students can choose from four locations including metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney.

With approximately 130 programs in more than 75 countries worldwide, Kansas University’s Office of Study Abroad is a busy place.

Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, associate vice provost of international programs, attributes the program’s success to strong faculty involvement.

“We have so many study abroad programs because faculty are offering them,” she said. “We are spreading into a broader array of disciplines and countries.”

Rather than purchase prepared programs, the OSA develops and runs its own programs, which allow students to study abroad without interrupting their degree process, Gronbeck-Tedesco said.

“Within the next five years, we hope to integrate study abroad courses directly into the major so that students have the option to complete coursework directly related to their majors here on campus as well as overseas,” she said.

OSA Outreach Coordinator Robert Lopez said that students who study abroad gain intercultural communication skills as well as independence and a global perspective on the world.

Frank Plummer Jr., a senior from Bellevue, Neb., said that seeing the world through a different cultural lens was his primary motivation to spend the semester in San José, Costa Rica.

“It’s hard to have an open mind about the world if you’ve only experienced it from one point of view,” he said.

“Over time, students who have studied abroad live in the world in a different way,” Gronbeck-Tedesco said. “They accept a different level of responsibility for making the world a better place because they’ve seen it from a couple different sides.”

Seniors Audrey Shamet of Shawnee and Alex Applegate of Wichita say that studying abroad in Angers, France, forced them to become more flexible and open-minded.

“Once I got back from abroad, I was able to view my life from a grander perspective,” Applegate said. “Studying abroad made me more capable of change, growth and adaptation.”

Students who have studied abroad can use their international experiences to differentiate themselves from other candidates when job searching in the future, Gronbeck-Tedesco said.

“Most major companies either have international operations or an eye toward international business,” she said, “and students who demonstrate they can adjust to another environment and live outside the country will appear much more interesting during an interview.”

One major misconception that prevents students from studying abroad is the fear that they won’t be able to graduate on time, Gronbeck-Tedesco said.

“KU students who study abroad graduate in four years at twice the rate of students who do not study abroad,” Lopez said. “We offer short-term programs during summer, winter and spring breaks so students can catch up if they’re falling behind. Summer programs are a great way to fulfill a language requirement.”

Many students believe they cannot afford to study abroad, which isn’t necessarily true, Lopez said.

“It takes a little bit of work, but there are tons of national and departmental scholarships students can apply for,” he said. “Studying abroad is very comparable financially to just being here on the Lawrence campus, and even cheaper for out-of-state students.”

Even if students don’t know when or where to go for their study abroad experience, it’s never too early to start planning ahead, Lopez said.

“I graduated high school a year early thinking I’d possibly do a gap year in another country, but then I decided to come straight to KU always with the intention of studying abroad,” said Gabby Pred, a Kansas City, Mo., senior who studied in Uppsala, Sweden.

“KU makes it very easy. They make it clear that students here study abroad,” Pred said, “and there are so many opportunities. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t study abroad given the opportunity.”

Students should take advantage of study abroad opportunities while they have access to funding and time that they may not have later in life, Gronbeck-Tedesco said.

Gronbeck-Tedesco said she hopes more students will participate in long-term semester abroad programs due to more scholarship opportunities made possible by the Far Above capital campaign the university kicked off in April.

“Travel costs have skyrocketed in the past 10 years,” she said, “but we’re focusing on developing great scholarship opportunities for students. We try to make it obvious how studying abroad will fit into students’ graduation plans so that they won’t feel like it’s such a risky thing to do.”

“There’s always going to be a ton of reasons not to do something,” Applegate said. “You could say I’m worried about this family member, the world, whatever. But it’s worth taking the leap if you want to try new things and meet new people.”

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