Aaron Johnson - General Assignment Reporter
When Southern Connecticut State University senior Artina Coma went through the process to study abroad this past summer, having to get a tonsillectomy was not on the agenda.
“I was sick for the first month,” said Coma, who traveled to Tubingen, Germany this summer. “But I had a great time meeting people from all over the world.”
Coma, liberal studies major from Thomaston, Conn., was one of about 175-200 students from SCSU to participate in the study abroad program this summer. An experience that Dr. Erin Heidkamp said was a life-changing journey.
“I use the word transformative. The students come into my office after they’ve returned and they are glowing,” said Heidkamp.
SCSU students can choose to complete a semester abroad in several countries including Bermuda, China, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, and Spain. Dr. Carlos Arboleda recently returned to the states after spending four weeks in Salamanca, Spain with 32 students.
“When you talk to the students after they come back, most of them talk about how much they’ve learned and how much they’ve grown as a person,” said Arboleda.
The benefit of studying abroad not only comes from a classroom perspective, but Arboleda — who is in the process of writing a book to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the program coming in 2015 — said the total emergence also helps the individual learn about the culture of the people.
“One of the benefits is that even though they spent only four weeks, it is a total emergence and they learn a great deal,” said Arboleda. “It really enriches students as people and it enhances their goals in life.”
Students are required to have a 2.75 GPA in order to be accepted into the program. The process starts with an information session with the OIE, which happens twice a week. Once that is completed, the next step is to apply for the study abroad program and fill out paperwork to ensure that all credits earned abroad will transfer back to Southern. A process which Heidkamp said takes about three to six weeks to complete.
“We answer all the basic questions in the information sessions,” said Heidkamp. “Waiting can be the most difficult part of the process. The waiting is not that bad. It is for the benefit for the student to make sure all credits will indeed come back and students will not have lost a semester.”
Although waiting is the hardest part of the process for most, Coma said that the process was easy and that the OIE was behind her the entire way.
“Everyone was so supportive. I am so grateful to Dr. Heidkamp and everyone at OIE. I would absolutely do this again,” said Coma.
It is accounts like this that Heidkamp said she loves to hear her students say.
“I believe that I have the best job on campus because I have happy students coming in and happy students going out,” said Heidkamp. “Across the board they now cannot only see the short-term academic goals in front of them. But they now have life goals.”
Students are responsible for the fee of $4,350 and the cost of one three credit course, although most students are able to use a form of financial aid. Heidkamp said that with the continued growth and success of the program, more students are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to study abroad.
“Faculty are finding out more and more that integrating study abroad into their curriculum is desirable for students,” said Heidkamp. “The forecast for study abroad on campus is looking very good.”