Go, Go, Go Abroad: Straight from the Voices of Experience

(London) Photo by Erin Furman

(London) Photo by Erin Furman

By Erin Furman

Despite the increasing costs of studying abroad, students who have done it in the past say that it is worth every penny. With Hofstra courses available in places as diverse as Athens, Japan and Ecuador, interested students have plenty of options.

Dr. Maria Fixell, the Coordinator of Hofstra Study Abroad Programs, says that if students are interested in studying abroad, they should speak to previous participants, contact program directors and go to individual program meetings.

“There’s nothing holding you back from going to meetings,” Fixell says. “They are meant to prepare students for trips to ensure they are ready to travel.”

As far as programs hosted by Hofstra, there’s no time constraint restricting students in terms of which points in their degrees they are allowed to participate. On the other hand, semesters spent abroad through a university other than Hofstra must be before the student’s senior year.

“Study abroad must normally be completed prior to the last 30 credits,” says Dr. Peter Sherwood, Associate Dean of the New College for Interdisciplinary Studies and Director of International Off-Campus Education. His office handles all non-Hofstra study abroad programs.

For students who would like to explore their abroad options outside of Hofstra, there “is a procedure that has to be followed,” says Sherwood. However, as long as students receive the required approvals from department chairs and other offices, they can receive credit “toward any major, minor or electives they may have.”

Both Fixell and Sherwood noted the importance of planning study abroad as early as possible. Students looking to travel through a non-Hofstra program should start considering their options a year in advance. Then the semester before they leave, they can plan the specifics of their trip.

When asked, students who have previously studied abroad were happy to offer their advice to those considering an international educational experience.

Photo by Erin Furman

Photo by Erin Furman

On Choosing a Program:

· “I would tell any underclassmen looking to study abroad to first think about where they want to go and how it would supplement their education.” –Evan Ibrahim, senior Public Relations and Psychology major, who traveled to London in January 2008.

· “I went to London to take an English course because I am an English major, but my mistake was that I didn’t realize that the course didn’t satisfy any of the requirements of my major, so it is best to do some research into courses that help work toward a major.” –Rachel Allen, junior English major who traveled to London in January 2008.

· “I went to Japan because I’ve always wanted to go and I could get my cross-cultural requirement out of the way even though I could have gone to Ireland which had major marketing classes I could have fulfilled. (Japan was of more interest to me.) The point is to do what you want the most because it’s your experience, no one else’s.” –Ashley Auger, junior Marketing major who traveled to Japan, summer 2008.

· “Try a trip that will be out of the ordinary for [you] because it really expands one’s horizons. To be able to travel oversees to a country with a unique culture with a professor who knows that culture well and plans the itinerary yet allows students to have freedom to explore that culture with their peers is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” –Andrew Williams, senior Business Management major who traveled to Japan, summer 2008.

(Stonehenge) Photo by Erin Furman

(Stonehenge) Photo by Erin Furman

On Choosing a Program:

· “I would tell any underclassmen looking to study abroad to first think about where they want to go and how it would supplement their education.” –Evan Ibrahim, senior Public Relations and Psychology major, who traveled to London in January 2008.

· “I went to London to take an English course because I am an English major, but my mistake was that I didn’t realize that the course didn’t satisfy any of the requirements of my major, so it is best to do some research into courses that help work toward a major.” –Rachel Allen, junior English major who traveled to London in January 2008.

· “I went to Japan because I’ve always wanted to go and I could get my cross-cultural requirement out of the way even though I could have gone to Ireland which had major marketing classes I could have fulfilled. (Japan was of more interest to me.) The point is to do what you want the most because it’s your experience, no one else’s.” –Ashley Auger, junior Marketing major who traveled to Japan, summer 2008.

· “Try a trip that will be out of the ordinary for [you] because it really expands one’s horizons. To be able to travel oversees to a country with a unique culture with a professor who knows that culture well and plans the itinerary yet allows students to have freedom to explore that culture with their peers is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” –Andrew Williams, senior Business Management major who traveled to Japan, summer 2008.

(Tower Bridge) Photo by Erin Furman

(Tower Bridge) Photo by Erin Furman

Practical Advice:

· “Studying abroad costs more than just the program costs… Come up with a budget plan and stick to it, especially for places like London and Paris where the exchange rate is high and prices are basically double. Students need to budget for food, entertainment, shopping, transportation, etc… and allow extra room for emergencies.” – Ibrahim.

· “Do a study abroad program even if [you] don’t know anyone else who’s going.” – Allen.

· “Start planning your study abroad options as soon as possible, even freshmen year if you could. The earlier you figure out what you want to do, the more flexible your schedule will be to allow for different study abroad opportunities.” – Stephanie Caruso, senior Film major; traveled to London in January 2008.

· “Have an open mind… You don’t have to panic. You’re so busy that you don’t have time to stop and think about being homesick.” – Tricia Merkey, junior Elementary Education and English major; traveled to Venice in January 2008.

(Guards at Windsor) Photo by Erin Furman

(Guards at Windsor) Photo by Erin Furman

Affording To Travel Abroad:

· “I would suggest a Sallie Mae Tuition Answer Loan if they would like to finance it themselves… If anyone is heavily involved in a church or some organization they can also ask for a sponsor to help donate and fund their trip.” – Ibrahim.

· “Talk to the financial aid office as well as wherever else your loans come from and see what kind of options there are for funding the programs.” – Allen

· “It’s important to figure everything out as soon as possible, so that you can apply for a loan and not have to worry about money issues.” – Caruso

· “Underclassmen should remember that they can get one or two classes done while studying abroad. This is money that the student would have to pay anyway to graduate… Students should look in to cashing bonds, student loans, and savings to finance the trip.” –Andrew Williams, senior business management major; traveled to Japan, summer 2008.

(Roman Baths) Photo by Erin Furman

(Roman Baths) Photo by Erin Furman

One Student’s Not-So-Successful Story:

Despite the many benefits of an overseas experience, cost alone is sometimes enough to deter students away from studying abroad, particularly with the downhill-spiral of today’s economy and the increasingly difficult process of obtaining student loans. (Break up this into two sentances. Seems a bit long) The prices of already expensive abroad programs have sky-rocketed, as well.  Theresa Montgomery, a junior music merchandising major at Hofstra, gave up her plan to spend a semester in London through a program at Arcadia University because of cost increases.

“At the time of my first looks at the Arcadia program, they had some of the cheapest programs available for every and any major,” said Montgomery. “It seemed economically sound to study abroad for a year, which would allow me to save money and enjoy something that I had always dreamed of.”

However, as the economy worsened, Arcadia’s tuition skyrocketed. It was no longer a bargain to go abroad for a whole semester or year, and so Montgomery put her international plans on hold.

“Without a large amount of scholarships and funding, studying abroad became a challenge,” said Montgomery.  “After checking into many other programs and comparing costs, it seemed the better choice was to save money by going to Hofstra (thanks to my scholarships and grants) and visit England and other European countries at another time.”

If students decide to put off studying abroad, or forego it altogether, there are other ways to enjoy Europe. “Alternative options to studying abroad,” said Montgomery, “are backpacking through some parts of the countries, including staying at hostels, cheap hotels, or even camping for a night or two.”

The Bottom Line:

When it comes to study abroad go where you want to go and take courses that interest you. As Danny Shea, a junior Geology major and Geography minor participating in Hofstra’s Ecuador program in January pointed out, “It is everyone’s dream to go to Rome and see the Coliseum or London to see Big Ben or Greece to see Athens.” So why not follow that dream and gain valuable once-in-a-lifetime experiences in places you may never have the chance to visit again? The choice is yours. Just remember what the voices of experienced travelers are saying: Go.

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Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 3:20 am  Leave a Comment  

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