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Opinion

Students should pursue opportunity to study abroad

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April 11, 2013

It is that time of year again. Students are being exposed to a variety of rhetoric encouraging them to study abroad during the 2013-2014 school year.

As a student, I realize all of the factors and limitations to consider and account for before choosing to study abroad. Before this week, I had assumed that I would not be able to study abroad during my time at UW-River Falls. However, after a variety of meetings with my advisor, department chairs, and program supervisors, I finally decided to participate in the International Traveling Classroom taking place in the spring of 2014.

As many of us already know, attending college is expensive. A majority of the time, we attempt to live as cheaply as humanly possible (even if means eating Ramen and Spaghetti O’s every night for dinner). Many students believe that studying abroad will result in more bills that will stretch budgets to their limits.

However, there are a variety of ways for students to alleviate the financial stresses of studying abroad. There are scholarships our University offers to support students who choose to go abroad. To be considered for these financial awards, all you need to do is submit your application before the specified deadline.

Furthermore, if you visit the financial aid office and tell them you are interested in studying abroad, they will tell you what steps you can take to meet this goal.

Another concern students have about studying abroad is that going abroad will not allow them to make progress toward graduation. This is not always true. I am a junior, and I have all of my general education credits completed. I assumed that because the only classes I had left were for my major or minor, I would not be able to study abroad without adding an extra semester to my college plan. However, after meeting with my advisor, I realized that I would be able to study abroad while still making progress toward graduation.

In many departments, there are specific classes that can be substituted for classes that are required for your major. In addition, you can pursue an internship or independent study while you are abroad, and it is possible to receive credit for these experiences that will help you make progress toward graduation. If you meet with your advisor, he or she will be able to tell you more about the options available to you. The faculty on our campus is extremely supportive of students who decide to study abroad, and they will do whatever they can to help you pursue this opportunity.

If you find that you are unable to study abroad for an entire semester, going on a J Term trip, a spring break trip or a summer trip are also wonderful options. There are study abroad experiences offered during these breaks, and these are great ways for students to study abroad if they are unable to devote an entire semester to the experience.

Many students are also wary of studying abroad because they are nervous and do not know what to expect from the experience. However, the faculty members who supervise study abroad programs are experienced and have typically visited these countries before. They know what students find interesting, exciting, and beneficial, and they make sure that they provide students with the opportunities to see and do these things. In addition, if you are concerned about leaving the United States, there are also study away programs that allow you to study in another state as opposed to going overseas to a different country.

College is all about learning and experiencing new things, and studying abroad is an amazing way to do both of these things. I encourage all students to step outside of their comfort zones by considering the study abroad experiences available to them. For many of us, there will not be a better time outside of our college years to go abroad and have these experiences. Consider seizing this opportunity while you have the chance.

Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.