Oversea opportunities broaden student outlook, personal perspectives

Jill Fier

Jill Fier

Students who want to broaden their educational and personal perspectives can study abroad while paying SDSU tuition.

Studying abroad can “refer to all experiences that have an educational and academic focus outside the United States,” Director of International Programs Harriet Swedlund said. Some students choose to go for a couple of weeks, and others stay for an entire year.

Only a few programs at SDSU require that students travel abroad for degree requirements, but many choose to do so anyway.

Last year, about 100 students from SDSU studied abroad, and that did not include those who were not studying but were traveling in foreign countries for university credit, Swedlund said.

Students should not consider studying abroad just as a way to get credits or to meet university requirements, though.

“A study abroad experience is helpful no matter what you are studying,” she said.

The cost factor can deter many students from considering travel around the world, but there are options for students with financial needs.

Director of Financial Aid Jay Larsen said that as long as students have completed their federal student aid application, they have the option of using their school loans to travel abroad.

If a student is enrolled in school at least half time and is using a consortium program for their travel, their student aid budget is increased so they may also be able to receive more money through loans, Larsen said.

Swedlund also said that there are a number of scholarships available for students studying abroad, some based on academic achievements and others based on financial need.

“The Gillman Scholarship is for students who have a Pell Grant. It gives up to $5,000 for a term,” she said. “The cost of living usually is higher when you study abroad, but it costs a lot less to travel now than it will ten years from now. People say they can’t afford it, but there are ways to save money and work around it.”

Senior sociology and education major Molly Lefholz agreed and said that students should not let money become an obstacle if they want to travel, because financial commitments only grow with time.

“Do it now before you have a mortgage, a family and other obligations. You’re going to regret it if you don’t. Whatever you pay, it’s worth every cent,” Lefholz said.

Lefholz has traveled to many countries all over the world, including Armenia and Japan when she was in high school, and China, South Korea and Ukraine while in college.

She said that through travel, “you learn who you are, your strengths and weaknesses.”

“The world is big and studying outside your comfort zone changes the way you seesee the world and the United States,” she said.

Swedlund said the only disadvantage she sees with travel to foreign countries is if people are inflexible and refuse to adapt to the environment they are in. They will not enjoy and experience as much as they can.

She also said if students are concerned about health problems, the university will do anything they can to make the trip possible. Stress, including language barriers, can be a big issue when students have to deal with an unfamiliar environment.

Although requirements vary from program to program, SDSU does have connections with many different universities and programs abroad, and credit transfers are usually not a problem in these situations.

One and two semester programs include two universities in Manchester, England, one in Sweden and one in France. SDSU also works with the College Consortium for International Studies to place students in one of its more than 30 countries.

Various colleges within the university also feature short-term programs.

The Modern Languages department will send students to France, Spain, Ecuador, and Germany this summer. Nursing students can travel to England, and pharmacy students can go to England or Sweden.

The College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences sends students to Western Europe and a program open to all majors is in South Korea.

Students are not restricted to these choices when studying abroad and the university tries to place students in areas they are interested in, but how easily credits can transfer varies in different situations, Swedlund said.