Study Abroad Office offers students new opportunities overseas

Natalie Barletta – Opinions Editor 

Cardboard was scattered around the Office of International Education as employees rushed to build their version of the Great Wall of China in preparation of their Instant Chinese Event that was going on later that day.

Instant Chinese is one of the many programs that the Office of International Education is a part of to help promote the importance of learning about other cultures.

“Instant Chinese is a program that we co-host with the world language department,” said Assistant Director and Fulbright Coordinator, Brendan Walsh. “We learn Chinese. I am excited, because I don’t know much Chinese.”

The Study Abroad Office is located in Engleman B116. The office is always busy with planning events, promoting trips and, helping students get prepared for their trips abroad for actions such as making sure that their paperwork is prepared on time, and that they have all of the right forms.

Walsh is no stranger to travel. In his college years, he did the Semester at Sea program, which is when a student spends a semester on a boat and travels all around the world.  After that, he spent a year teaching English in China. This past summer, he taught English at a university in Laos.

“I think it’s valuable to study abroad in college,” said Walsh. “The older I got the more experiences I was able to take in more.”

There are multiple ways to get an abroad experience through Southern. The first is to spend a year or semester abroad with a country and a university that a student chooses. It is advised by Walsh that students should plan ahead if they are interested in studying abroad.

“Students should apply six months to a year in advance,” said Walsh.

Another way to get an experience abroad is go to one of Southern’s reciprocal exchange programs. There are 12 universities that are connected to the program according to the Office of International Education website.

There are many countries students choose from including China and France. Three more programs will be added to the list soon. A third way that students can study abroad is with a professor-led trip that goes during the break. These are the trips that one can see advertised across campus, and go everywhere from Spain, Italy and even New Zealand. According to Walsh, 150 to 175 Southern students per year study abroad.

The International Education Office became an official program at Southern around 10 years ago, according to Walsh. Walsh also said the professor-run programs have been available to students for about 25 years.

One of the reasons a student would be hesitant to study abroad is the overall cost, according to Southern Connecticut State University Professor Giuseppina Palma. Palma runs the annual trip to Tuscany, Italy in addition to teaching Italian at Southern.

“Each individual student can apply for financial aid for these trips,” said Palma. “You can get the same financial aid for classes. There are also some scholarships that are that available. In Italian, we have some institutions that will give out scholarships. When you factor it all in, its not as expensive that it could be.”

In fall 2014, Southern became an official member of the National Student Exchange program, also known as NSE. This program helps meet the financial needs of those by offering the same amount of tuition that someone would pay at Southern, at a participating university in the U.S., Canada, Guam and Puerto Rico.

For example, let’s say a student wants to travel to the University of Montreal. That student would pay the tuition fees for Southern and the housing fees to their host university.

Studying abroad can be beneficial to college students in all different majors. Michelle Martino, a junior Spanish secondary education major, went on a Spain trip this past summer. During her time in Spain, she became more fluent with the language and the culture. This is something that can help her when she teaches high school Spanish.

“It gives me great experience with the language, because I am not a native speaker,” said Martino.

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