World at her fingertips

Shayla Waugh

Shayla Waugh

Last semester, Julie Walter’s classroom was a ship and her campus was the world.

Walter, a microbiology and clinical lab technician major, participated in the overseas program through SDSU’s Department of International Programs during the 2004 fall semester..

Walter said a friend influenced her to join the program.

“I love to travel and see the world and I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience; which it was,” Walter said.

Walter said her time abroad, which totaled 100 days, was spent on a ship that traveled to several countries including Japan, Thailand, India, South Africa and Brazil. She said that all classes were taught onboard the ship while they traveled country to country.

The most interesting experiences of her time overseas were shark diving, skydiving, visiting the Great Wall and going on a safari.

“Sometimes the best part about visiting all those places was talking to the people on the streets,” Walter said.

A record number of students have made the decision to take their studies abroad through the Department of International Programs.

Karl Schmidt, director of International Programs, said 32 students have committed to a semester abroad in the 2004-05 school year. This number breaks the 17-student record set during the 2002-03 school year.

The Department of International Programs currently offers close to 150 programs in 50 countries. Schmidt said two new international programs have been added since he became the director in September of 2003.

Study abroad can be beneficial for students in many ways, Schmidt said.

“Students should travel overseas for a couple of reasons. One reason is an emotionally involved one, of trying to learn about yourself and your tolerances just by being exposed to a different culture,” he said. “The other reason is more practical. More and more employers are looking to hire people who have experiences abroad. They want people who have been exposed to diversity.”

Schmidt said that all the programs set up through the Department of International Programs count toward college credits. He said that it is required for students to earn credits while abroad.

Schmidt has concentrated on offering low-cost, solid educational programs. Although prices vary on a traditional student exchange, he said students pay the SDSU tuition and fee as well as housing, food and travel expenses abroad. He said students could expect to pay about $7 to $8 thousand dollars to study abroad.

“Studying abroad is no longer a luxury,” said Schmidt. “Something that was, at one time, mainly available to the more wealthy individuals is now very much a choice for virtually all.”