Students participating in study abroad increase

Ceylin Arias/Staff Writer

FIU has seen an increase in the number of students studying abroad since the promise they made in 2014 to double their numbers by the year 2020, an associate director said.

Suzy Gomez, associate director for the Office of Study Abroad said the University joined an initiative of the Institute of International Education called Generation Study Abroad in 2014 to increase the amount of students studying abroad.

“FIU was very supportive in having us join that initiative,” Gomez said. “At that time, we pledged to work towards doubling our 2011-2012 number of students studying abroad to 1,646 by the 2019-2020 academic year.”

Before the “promise” was made, 823 students were studying abroad, according to Gomez, but since 2014, that number has increased to about 1,039 students.

Gomez said the school has two main types of programs: the Study Abroad program and the International Student Exchange program.

The most popular program, according to Gomez, is the Study Abroad program. These are faculty-led and usually take place during the break as a semester component and because they are faculty-led, staff members are encouraged to propose new programs for any particular field or country.

“This year, for example, we have our first ever psychology study abroad program in India, which is a different destination because we don’t have that many programs to India,” Gomez said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to do a little bit of research. It is also a unique opportunity to include in their resumes not only for the international component but also the practical training they are getting out of the program.”

Ana Correa, a recent graduate, who participated in the program during summer 2016, said it was an eye-opener and as an international relations major, the exposure to different cultures helped her understand why events happened the way they did such as World War I.

“People traveling [to] Belgium that were from other parts of Europe, you could feel a sense of identity amongst them,” Correa said. “You also learned how to travel to different places in a short amount of time. There is a lot of interest within my field about wanting students to participate in humanitarian organizations abroad and that’s what we were able to do while abroad.”

Just like Gomez, Correa believes participating in the Study Abroad program gives a boost to a student’s job application, just like it did to hers. Not only did she receive a certificate for participating in the program, she said, but it gave her leeway to a new understanding of her field.

“The program sparked in me an interest in External Affairs,” Correa said. “A lot of the descriptions in the jobs I’m applying to right now seem like a good fit for me too because of the personal experience I was able to go through while traveling through many continents in Europe.”

Olivia Napper, a recent international relations graduate with a minor in geography, echoes the same sentiment as Correa.

Napper participated in the Study Abroad program in Spring 2016 and said the experience was not only beneficial academically but was what helped her land a job as a student assistant for the Office of Study Abroad.

“It has helped me receive acceptance to graduate programs, fellowships, and federal government positions, simply because international experience is so important to them,” Napper said. “Additionally, my exchange helped me obtain a job as a student assistant for the FIU Office of Study Abroad.”

The other program available to students is the International Student Exchange program, which lasts for a whole semester and the office, Gomez said, is in process of adding new partners in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Students who want to participate in the Study Abroad program, according to Gomez, must have good academic standing and conduct and some programs may require perquisites. The Japanese study abroad program, for instance, requires the student to know beginner’s Japanese.

Faculty, Gomez said, also play a role in deciding on who is admitted to the program but with an open schedule, students can typically participate the summer following their freshman year.

The International Student Exchange program, however, requires a stricter application process.

In order to be considered, students who have been at FIU since freshman year or any student who has transferred to FIU must have already completed at least one semester at FIU, have at least a 3.0 GPA, must go through an interview, obtain recommendation letters and be at least a sophomore by the time they apply. Furthermore, students cannot participate in their last semester before graduation.

The Study Abroad program tends to be the more feasible of the two programs for students, according to Gomez, because students can’t afford to be away for a whole semester due to at-home responsibilities, but there is no tuition difference.

Students part of the Study Abroad program pay a program fee that include accommodations and activities, Gomez said,  but it all equates to in-state tuition.

Students in the International Student Exchange program, on the other hand, pay whatever tuition they normally pay at their home university but students, she said, will be responsible for housing and any other costs that may arise.

The office also works a lot with scholarships, according to Gomez, to help cover the cost for students with financial issues.

“It’s [studying abroad] really an amazing opportunity and not having a means through which to pay should not deter students from participating,” Gomez said. “Within office scholarships, our office also works with nationalist prestigious awards. Don’t let cost inhibit you from studying abroad.”

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