Office of International Education is making studying abroad more affordable


Jeff LamsonGeneral Assignment Reporter

Studying abroad may soon be more affordable for Southern students as the Office of International Education (OIE) works with President Bertolino to fund more scholarships for study abroad programs.

Director of OIE, Dr. Erin Heidkamp said that affordability is “the ever-present problem” when it comes to helping students study abroad. Heidkamp said that President Bertolino is committed to funding scholarships for students looking to study abroad. She could not say how much funding these scholarships might be, but that they might be available by Fall 2018 for students studying abroad at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU).

The OIE is also keeping costs for students down with their even exchange partnerships with other institutions. With these partnerships, Southern and another school can make an exchange of the same number of students, which means they can pay Southern tuition and just pay for the cost of room and board and travel. According to Assistant Director, Michael Schindel, the majority of students choose to study abroad this way. Schindel often says that the cost of housing is, “about the same (as Southern), if not, a little bit cheaper than living on campus here.”

Regarding expanding partnerships, Heidkamp said, “I think that it’s important to not be Euro-centric, but to encourage students to go where-ever they want to go.” According to Heidkamp, the focus is to now make more partnerships in Asia and Central and South-America.

New partnerships in Asia include the University of Seoul in South Korea and Tokyo International University in Japan. Heidkamp herself will be taking students on a trip to Japan as part of the many faculty led programs.

In South-America the Nursing department has two faculty led trips to both Peru and Nicaragua. “Our students want skills that make them employable,” said Heidkamp and these trips give nursing students experience working with people that may not speak the same language as them.

Heidkamp also said that employers often look for “something quantifiable, something tangible that they (the students) did,” and that “they want to know that students have engaged in experiential learning.

“Study abroad is experiential learning in every way, shape and form,” Heidkamp said, and that study abroad fits right into Southern’s motto of “Real World Education.”

In building these new relationships, Heidkamp said, “We also believe in quality over quantity,” and finding that in academic synergy regarding health and human services, STEM. The OIE also looks for institutions where there is what Heidkamp called a “faculty to faculty connection,” and for things that they share in common.

The connection to LJMU is growing stronger according to Schindel. He referred to it as “our signature program.” Heidkamp said, “This partnership is really our flagship.” Schindel also said some exchange of faculty through virtual lectures has begun.

“We are very closely aligned academically to Liverpool John Moores,” Schindel said. “Liverpool and New Haven are very similar cities.”

According to Heidkamp, many students who try a study abroad program become “repeat offenders,” and that she’s seen some students go through 3 to 4 of these programs before they graduate.

One such repeat offender is Grace Gothers. “I would say that the experience definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best ways possible,” said Gothers. She went on to describe the experience as teaching her “so many valuable lessons that only travel can show you.”

Heidkamp agrees and said, “It is in that really uncomfortable place where we find personal growth.”

Photo Credit: Jeff Lamson

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