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Students take advantage of study abroad opportunities

April 25, 2014

Students sometimes struggle with multiple issues when deciding whether or not to attend undergraduate study abroad programs, according to the UW-River Falls Global Connections office. These struggles include financial obligations, less-flexible programs in certain majors, along with the hesitation to leave home.

“I have thought about studying abroad, and I’m currently working on that. I just need to get the money, that’s all,” said Angeli Alonso, a pre-veterinary medicine major. “So I’m currently looking in to financial aid from the school right now.”

According to a study from the University of Wisconsin accountability reports, lower income students are less likely to participate in UW study abroad and exchange experiences.

Charles Rader, a professor in cartography and geographic information systems at UWRF, says there is a profound growth in maturity and a clearer grasp of self-identity from students who participate in semester-length study abroad programs.

“They have a better understanding of what is America’s role in the world,” Rader said.

Rader said he believes that everyone should be exposed to the world in order to develop an understanding of how they fit in the world and the impact it has on them.

276 students studied abroad during the 2012-2013 school year, and 282 students are estimated to participated in the 2013-2014 school year, according to Global Connections.

“Since 1963, over 1,000 of UWRF students have participated in the school’s international study abroad program,” said Chancellor Dean Van Galen at the 2014 UW-System Board of Regents Meeting on campus. “However, we realized that for our students, study abroad experiences must be affordable and viewed as a doable first step,” he continued.

“Students often hear that study abroad programs are expensive, which stops them from coming to our offices to learn about the program fee and the scholarships that are available,” said Wisconsin In Scotland and Experience China Program Coordinator Kelsey McLean. “All of our programs are a bit different, but most of programs…students can use financial aid.”

Harmony Arco, a music major at UWRF, says that she wants to travel, study or work abroad eventually. However, she wants to focus on getting her music degree finished first. Tasha Bonke, a dairy science major, also said that she prefers to focus on graduating, but still wants to travel outside of the country later on in her life.

“Some of our students have jobs, and can’t leave campus. It’s expensive for college here,” said Carol Rogers, Global Connections Program associate.

Rogers also stated that some students were also a part of rigorous academic programs that did not provide them the flexibility to study abroad, while finishing their degree in a short period of time.

“For those folks, J-term might be an option,” Rogers said.

Shelby King, the International Student Services coordinator, also said that a lot of students on campus were first generation college students, therefore the idea of college and embracing the idea of studying abroad might be challenging.

“Not everybody has it free in their schedule to do that, or they’re just not comfortable studying abroad for one semester. That’s why we have short term programs,” Anthony Tumbarello said.

Tumbarello is working as a peer advisor at the Global Connections office. He has participated in the study abroad programs provided by the UWRF campus, and is very active in sharing his experience with others.

“The other bit is that U.S. small-town mentality isn’t super keen on traveling abroad,” Tumbarello said.

Alexandra Davison, 22, is a senior majoring in both communications and English. Davison said that she wants to study abroad, and is planning to apply for the one-week spring program in Germany next year.

“Being able to see these cultures at its origin is going to be much more eye-opening for me,” Davison said.