Broadening horizons

This week, the Office of International Affairs here at Portland State will be hosting a fair for studies outside the United States.

This week, the Office of International Affairs here at Portland State will be hosting a fair for studies outside the United States. The event will be similar to Party in the Park, where students can explore booths providing information about various groups and opportunities relating to the university. In this case, however, the fair will be focused solely on education abroad.

Studying abroad is, quite simply, when a student takes some classes at a school in a different country.

PSU students have a lot of places to pick from when they enroll in an international study program through the university. The ultimate question for students would be whether it is even worthwhile to study abroad. For example, is studying engineering in Germany would be different than studying it right here?

The first thing to consider when choosing a study abroad program should be what to study. Students have quite a few options. There are programs for art students and engineering students—so programs aren’t necessarily restricted by major. A film major could go to London and study sociology if they wanted to. While that might not be in their best interest, the point is that the option is often open.

Other factors to consider are what type of program and which country to visit. Whether it is an intensive language program, a summer program or an internship makes a big difference. As for the locations offered, they are literally all over the world. There are programs in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America and Oceania.

Perhaps the most important aspect of studying abroad for students is that the credit earned overseas transfers back to PSU to go toward their degree.

Although the range of programs students have to choose from is mostly open, there are some programs open only to specific majors. All programs have their own requirements for applying. Some of these requirements include GPA and language experience.

Language itself is something students must consider when applying for a program. A student who does not speak any Chinese may reconsider studying in China. According to Alyse Collins, the Education Abroad advisor with the OIA, many classes abroad that students can enroll in—such as those in Japan—are actually taught in English. In some programs there is no language requirement to begin with.

Ultimately, there are a lot of factors specific to each program to consider when applying, but the fact is that generally most international programs are fairly open.

Some programs are not. In the case of intensive language courses, students enroll knowing there will be little or no English to help them when they arrive and they will be completely immersed. Some students have said this helped them learn the languagzzae faster since they had no option but to speak it.

Collins also notes that a big part of studying abroad is that students have an opportunity to spend time in a foreign country and be a part of the culture, rather than just a tourist.

In addition to being part of a different culture, students can learn in their chosen area of study from a perspective outside of their normal environment. Experience abroad may also become a factor for students at a graduate and professional level after they have returned.

Studying abroad presents many of the same challenges that students face right here at PSU. Just like programs here in the U.S., study abroad programs require students to pay tuition. The same financial aid that students use for their current education can be applied to the programs abroad. Students are still responsible, in some cases, for other expenses.

With the obvious exceptions of language barriers and culture shock, most of the challenges, such as homesickness or a change in diet, are really no different from the challenges students already face at PSU, such as making sure you have enough money to buy food.

Ultimately, there is a lot that can be gained from the experience. Aside from furthering a student’s education, much of studying abroad is about experience and giving students an opportunity that they may not otherwise have. Besides, why wouldn’t you want to study art in France?