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Expand Your Horizons by Studying Abroad

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If you’ve ever daydreamed about seeing the Eiffel Tower or wondered what it would feel like to walk down the streets of London, spending a semester abroad may be the perfect chance for you to make your wishes come true.

In 1923, a young University of Delaware professor named Raymond W. Kirkbride made the extremely unusual move of sending eight of his students to study in Paris, France. He coined this practice the “Foreign Study Plan” and studying abroad has become an increasingly popular way for students to experience new cultures in a hands-on manner ever since.

I attended college in Florida, but a girl I knew at the time went to England to study at the University of Oxford for a semester, and I’ve since met a woman that spent half of her junior year in Germany. Do you want to spend a semester away from your main school without leaving the country? Many colleges and universities have exchange programs with other schools in the United States. One of my college friends wound up spending a semester in Washington, DC! The opportunities for studying abroad or being an exchange student are out there. You just need to know where to look.

In order to earn college credit that will apply toward your degree as you study elsewhere, your school probably needs to have an articulation agreement with the school that you will be visiting. An articulation agreement is a policy in place between two schools which states the policies related to transferring credits between the two. An easy way to understand articulation agreement is to think of the policies in place about transferring your credits from a community college to a four-year university.

Studying abroad is a definitely a growing trend. According to the Institute of International Education: 191,321 students from the United States studied abroad during the 2003-04 academic year. The four countries that most US students studied in were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France. In fact, 46% of US students studying abroad went to one of these four countries, and 61% of all US students studying abroad went to Europe. The numbers continue to rise. The U.S. Senate even designated 2006 as the “Year of Study Abroad,” and urged academic, business, and government entities to encourage international exchange opportunities.

When Raymond W. Kirkbride initiated the trend of studying abroad in 1923, it was done to give foreign language majors the ability to study the languages in their native regions. The times have changed, and there are now many programs available which are geared to specific academic areas or majors in addition to language-based studies like Kirkbride’s.

Unfortunately, many students in the United States are not as “worldly” as their counterparts from other countries. According to the results of the National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Global Literacy Study, 75 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 cannot locate Israel on a map of the Middle East, 65 percent cannot find Great Britain on a world map, and 50 percent cannot identify New York on a U.S. map. Spending time in a foreign country is a great way for students to travel and learn about other cultures.

You may like the idea of studying abroad, but the financial side of the plan may be scaring you. That’s definitely something important to consider, but help is available. According to the NAFSA (Association of International Educators) “Financial aid for undergraduate study abroad consists mainly of federal grants and federal and private loans. However, scholarship money is also available from organizations and sponsoring companies. You likely have many questions about the cost of studying abroad and about how you can fund your abroad experience. Be sure to speak with your campus financial aid officer and study abroad adviser to learn more about specific funding options available at—and required procedures for—your college or university.”

The international studies department at your school may also be able to supply you with information about the Fulbright Program. The Fulbright Program awards grants for international educational exchange. It was founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright after World War II. It is one of the most prestigious awards programs in the world, and more Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes than those of any other academic program.

Several factors will be taken into consideration before you can be approved to study abroad. There are typically GPA requirements as well as approval from various faculty members, such as your department head and your academic advisor.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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