Stephany Kaufman — Staff Writer
Not all college students choose to study abroad. However, Michael Schindel recommends that everyone take advantage of the opportunity.
“I encourage all students to study abroad for a year or longer,” said Schindel, who is the graduate assistant and office manager of International Programs. “I’ve never heard a student say they hated their experience.”
Schindel said there are many personal benefits to studying abroad—some of which last a lifetime.
“People come back more emotionally mature and focused academically, and just having that world experience is phenomenal. Seeing another culture is challenging to students but they have a blast doing it and come back with huge grins,” he said with a smile on his face. “It really is something life-changing that people can use for job applications to show that they had international experience.”
There are certain steps all Southern students must take in order to begin planning their journey abroad, Schindel said.
“The first step is to attend an information session where we talk about the process, explain the programs in more detail, and explain the requirements,” he said. “We have info sessions once every other week.”
Students are required to have at least a 2.75 Grade Point Average to study abroad, and semester or longer programs require at least 30 credits. Southern’s summer programs have no credit requirement, according to Schindel.
“After attending the information session, students will meet with their advisor, who will then sign a permission form and give advice on which courses to take abroad. Once we get that form back into our office students begin meeting with faculty coordinators,” Schindel said.
The role of faculty coordinators is to facilitate the application process for whatever program the student wishes to enroll in and go over the budget, including airfare, tuition, and living expenses. These expenses can often be mitigated with financial aid, according to Schindel.
“We work with students based on their own financial aid so a lot of times students can take their loans and roll it over to the university abroad – which helps ease the cost a bit,” said Schindel. “With exchange programs, students can actually study abroad for the cost of Southern.”
Schindel said he encourages students to go on exchanges.
Valerie Francisco, senior political science and history major at Quinnipiac, studied abroad in Nicosia, Cyprus for four and a half months. She said the experience was mind opening and life-changing.
“It was an amazing experience. I’m literally a different person today as a result. It’s great to see the perspectives of people from other countries on politics, government, history – and partying,” she said with a chuckle.
Francisco said she thinks it’s important to learn about and appreciate other cultures.
“We’re so sheltered here in the U.S.,” she said. “It’s like this is the only country that exists and we never even think to question it.”
Italian professor Giuseppina Palma, who introduced the Tuscany summer program to Southern, said he believes studying abroad is an enriching experience for all students.
“When we experience other cultures, we reflect on our own American culture and we begin to appreciate what we have and become more understanding of other cultures,” said Palma. “You get an appreciation for the otherness. Every culture has rich and valuable traditions, and when we learn about them they can become our own.”