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Education Abroad Fair reminds students of alternative learning experiences

February 18, 2015

The 2015 spring semester Education Abroad Fair was held on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the Falcon’s Nest, and over 260 UW-River Falls students curiously moved around the room in hopes of learning more about the 24 unique Education Abroad programs and opportunities.

The Education Abroad Fair is a once-a-semester event, usually held in the third week of each new academic semester, and this particular fair featured 21 UWRF programs, one internship opportunity through World Endeavors, and booths from UW-Platteville and the University of Minnesota. Platteville and Minnesota offer Education Abroad programs to interested students who want to travel to a specific country which UWRF does not offer.

All 21 UWRF programs that were featured at the Education Abroad Fair are faculty led or administered; nine of the programs are semester length, and 12 are short-term and take place during J-term, spring break or summer. While Global Connections does its best to spread word of each Education Abroad Fair, there are always students unaware of it.

“It’s surprising to me how many times people say: ‘yeah, I just kind of walked by,’” said Education Abroad Advisor Carol Rogers. “There’s a lot going on in the Falcon’s Nest, and sometimes it concerns you and sometimes you feel like you might be just kind of crashing a party, but we really want you to come into this one.”

Among the 260 students who attended was UWRF student Taylor Gregg, who visited Italy over J-term in January through the Explore Italy program.

“I’m really anxious to go back abroad,” Gregg said. “I kind of wanted to go for a semester and I was looking at [International Traveling Classroom] because you can go to a whole bunch of different places.”

International Traveling Classroom (ITC) is a spring semester program that gives students an opportunity to visit seven significant cities in Europe while earning course credit. ITC costs approximately $16,000 for the semester. Ideally, ITC needs 25 to 35 students to be financially viable. Currently, there are 31 ITC students abroad. Students are in the classroom or on fieldtrips in each city for seven days, but are given three days to sightsee thereafter.

“So, you have a couple days in-between to sort of wander and find what you want,” said Rich Wallace, ITC spring 2015 coordinator. “Then we meet back up, and we just move across Europe this way.”

Tentatively, the 2016 ITC program will visit the countries of Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. Approximately $11,000 of the $16,000 goes towards lodging, meals, plane and rail tickets, and course costs. The other $5,000 is an estimated cost of what an average student spends on other expenses like clothes, entertainment, souvenirs, tours, and fine-dining.

“It’s an expensive program, not as expensive as it could be,” Wallace said. “We get people that spend only $1,000 or $1,200, and we get people who’ve spent $10,000 of their own money. That cost is all you.”

Students studying abroad in one of the other 20 UWRF programs can do so in countries such as Japan, Germany, Australia, India, Costa Rice, Nicaragua, China, Scotland, Uganda and Belize. Interested students are guided by faculty in Global Connections with the hope of matching a specific program with a specific individual. When choosing an Education Abroad program, it’s important to consider the location, time of year and cost of each program.

“The cost is kept down in the [Experience] Scotland program by doing some house chores,” Rogers said. “Like, sometimes you have to sweep the front steps of this palace—yeah, not too bad, I’ll do that. It can be the right thing for you, and perhaps not for someone else. Everyone’s situation is unique, just like being here [at UWRF].”

At the conclusion of the Education Abroad Fair, UWRF students Joomin Hwang and Minchang Jang sang songs in their native Korean language to the enjoyment of the growing crowd.

Last year, Rogers was able to persuade a UWRF student to play the bagpipes at the fair, which flooded the University Center with music—the extremely loud kind.

“So he started to go ‘whoooo,’ and I thought: ‘wow, that’s loud; that’s really, really loud,’” Rogers said.

The bagpipes player was then escorted outside because of the excessive noise, where he played for students walking around campus, while a Global Connections student employee held a sign, inviting students into the Falcon’s Nest for the fair.

The next Education Abroad Fair will be held on Sept. 16 in the Falcon’s Nest, a date that has to be booked 18 months in advance.

“The Falcon’s Nest seems to be a really good place for it,” Rogers said. “It’s right on the first floor, it’s at a convenient time right in the middle of the day, so people are already eating and they can hopefully stop by and see what’s what. We really like the location, and it’s suited us very well.”

Rogers said that the fall fair usually gets over 500 students, in comparison to the 260 it saw on Feb. 11.

“It’s usually the third week of classes and so there’s a lot of dreaming and new interest and everything,” Rogers said. “You got one quarter of the school that maybe isn’t familiar with the whole idea of Education Abroad, except for bits and pieces, so it is our bigger fair.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Education Abroad programs, visit the Global Connections office in 102 Hagestad Hall. Specialists are available for guidance, and a number of pamphlets are available for important information. Applications for summer Education Abroad programs are usually due before April 1.

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