Planning to study abroad
Go to college and travel the world? College requirements and opportunities have changed dramatically since the days when we parents slaved over textbooks, typing papers on our trusty manual typewriters. International education and global networking were concepts that were not part of our vocabulary back in the seventies. Today’s students are encouraged to become citizens of the world, to live overseas as a local, and, if possible, to learn the native languages of the countries they visit. Before your student spends a semester abroad, he/she must select a program with credits that transfer and he needs to determine the best time of year to study abroad.
Let’s start with the most practical concern first – making sure that your child receives CREDIT for the overseas experience. Universities are understandably proud of their high standards; as a result they are cautious in granting credit to overseas programs. The Study Abroad office will help your child to investigate the vast program offerings available through their own branch campus overseas or at foreign universities with whom they have reciprocal agreements. It is absolutely IMPERATIVE that your child contacts this office before applying to study abroad! Not only can this office steer your student to programs that will enhance his/her major but they will present your child with programs that receive full university credit. You need to ensure before your child hops on the plane that your money, and your child’s time, is not wasted on a program that the university does not recognize. To do otherwise may result in additional semesters, and costs, since your student will have to spend more time at the home university “making up” the time spent overseas.
There are three major advantages to studying at the overseas branch campus of your home university. First of all, the credits will transfer without penalty; secondly there is usually no additional cost for tuition. Besides maintaining the tuition costs that are already included in your budget, a branch campus of the “home” university will accept scholarships that your student currently receives. The third advantage is the strong support system the university already has in place for students. On-site university advisors, home stays in local apartments and classes in English are often the norm for these campuses. If your student does not have a foreign language requirement for his or her major, this may be an especially attractive option.
Once your student has decided on a university and a program, the next decision is to determine the time frame. Should the overseas study last a summer, a semester or a full year? Your student will need to speak with someone in the Dean’s Office of their major, and minor, to ensure that all university requirements are met and that the length of the program causes minimal disruption to his sequence of required courses. Engineering students may be able to do a co-operative experience (aka co-op) with an international company while Education majors may be able to student teach overseas. My older son spent the summer after his junior year in Italy. He completed fourth year Italian (his minor) and received a full year’s credit by taking three classes per day during the eight week term in Urbino.
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