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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Students weigh costs, culture of study abroad”

    For many students, the daunting task of studying abroad is simply a matter of pairing the good with the bad. At the UA, students have many options to choose from, including nearly 50 countries worldwide, making the decision to study abroad difficult and complex.

    “”Typically…in any given semester, in fall, there will be approximately 400 (students) abroad – same for spring,”” said David Wright, director for the Office of Study Abroad. “”And in the summer, there will be anywhere between 800 and 1,000 (students) abroad.””

    For many of these students, the biggest concern is financing. According to the Office of Study Abroad, most programs offered through the university are equal in cost to one semester of in-state tuition. According to information available from other universities, students studying through non-UA programs seldom pay less than $7000 per semester.

    “”If a student wants to study abroad, then we are a great resource for them,”” Wright said. “”For lots of students, costs are a very big issue. A lot of the time, it is just a matter of finding the right program. (Some) programs range anywhere between $6,000 and $15,000 for one semester, and that usually will include airfare.””

    Applying for financial aid, travel grants, scholarships and even alternative funding, such as independent fundraising from departments or corporations, are all methods recommended for earning appropriate finance to study abroad. For students unable to afford the cost for spring or fall semesters abroad, summer programs generally range half the cost, Wright said.

    “”It’s insanely expensive, and it’s freaking me out all the time,”” said Mitch Levine, a political science senior who is currently studying abroad in the Netherlands on student loans. “”But of course, there are ways to live on the cheap, and ultimately, I know in 20 years, I won’t remember how much it cost to get here, except maybe as I am paying off my loans.””

    In addition to financial worries, the issue of having credits transfer from foreign institutions is paramount to students. All programs through the UA are designed by faculty and offer direct credit transfer, Wright said.

    For students studying abroad through non-UA programs, approval by the admissions office is required for transfer of credits.

    Regardless of the difficulties of studying abroad, many students look to the experience of traveling as worth the cost and effort.

    “”To have the experience of going and living in a foreign environment, to force myself to be in a situation where I am not entirely comfortable, would be really beneficial, I think,”” said Weston Westenborg, a sociology junior. “”I would also really like to become fluent in another language, and I feel that I need to be in a place that will not allow me to speak English to do that.””

    “”Students are seeing (studying abroad) as a critical component to their education,”” Wright said. “”They don’t want to leave college unless they can go out into the job market without saying, ‘I know how to speak a second language,’ or, ‘I know how to deal with cross-cultural situations,'”” Wright said.

    For many students, studying abroad can be a cost-benefit analysis. For those who choose to go abroad, the benefits are long-term.

    “”There is no question that it is worth the money,”” said Victor Alvarado, a Latin American studies and business senior.

    Alvarado spent last spring in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and returned nearly fluent in Spanish, he said. “”I mean, it’s not cheap for anyone, but the experience of going out there and doing it, and being apart of another culture is invaluable,”” Alvarado said.

    The number of students studying abroad each year increases by about eight percent. This is because every year, students are finding it more and more worthwhile to travel abroad, Wright said.

    “”I absolutely think that it is something worth doing if students can make it happen,”” Westenborg said. “”I don’t think that there are many opportunities for people our age to be exposed to radically different ways of living. At no other point in our lives are most of us going to be presented with such a good opportunity to live in another country, so we should seize it while we can.””

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