Studying abroad is a valuable experience and an enriching opportunity for college students to gain cultural awareness.
With all of the personal and professional benefits, one might expect the number of students studying abroad to skyrocket, according to the Huffington Post. However, only about five percent of undergraduate students actually follow through with their plans.
Many students often become interested in pursuing a semester abroad after seeing student presentations or going to fairs and events hosted by campus global engagement.
After the initial excitement, the actual process before, during and after studying abroad is daunting – much more daunting than it should be.
Yes, choosing to study abroad is a big, expensive decision that a student shouldn’t make overnight. But if studying abroad is so valuable to a student’s life and education, the process to get to that end goal needs to become simplified and transparent.
My experience is nothing out of the ordinary – I scheduled multiple meetings to choose a location and program. Students who choose a direct program, National Student Exchange or a separate agency all have multiple hoops to jump through.
Personally, I worked through National Student Exchange, which entails multiple meetings with global learning advisers and professors and forms to complete. Even while off-campus, I have had to virtually fill out forms and ask for signatures to complete every piece of the puzzle. Everything has been communicated back to the Center for Academic and Global Engagement, or CAGE.
At times, this lengthy process reached points where I didn’t have every detail completed simply because others hadn’t communicated my information back and forth.
In my experience, the student becomes the middle man or woman, running around campus to meet every requirement, on top of the stress of preparing to live in a different state or country, not to mention a full load of classes and being involved on campus.
According to Go Overseas, studying abroad has gone from an open system only requiring a transcript from a recognized university to a complicated maze of programs, endorsed providers and third-party operated overseas campus centers.
In the US, approximately half of university students will transfer to another university, and yet the same universities fight to restrict semester-long departures from campus.
So how can colleges simplify the study abroad process? Before starting an application, students interested in studying abroad should be aware of all the details involved when studying abroad, such as arranging financial aid, credit transfer and paperwork. As with anything, education is crucial.
Additionally, I believe the CAGE office should become the key location for the entire application process so students can avoid the stress of juggling a course load along with multiple meetings at different locations. If the only mediator a student consults with is the CAGE office, that’s a huge weight off a student’s shoulders.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond grateful for all of the help I’ve received to make this journey a reality. However, for me to fully endorse other students to study abroad, the process needs improvement.
Global learning and all administrators involved should have open communication that supports ambitious students rather than hinders them. Let’s not let studying abroad feel like a world — and many steps and documents — away.
If you’re a USD student traveling abroad and would like to contribute to The Volante, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.