Friday, January 14, 2011

Study-abroad opportunities are opening up in less-developed countries, making it affordable for more college students

A semester abroad would be a great addition to your life experience and college resume. But can you afford it without tapping the Bank of Mom and Dad, which is issuing fewer loans these days?
Because of changing study-abroad trends, you may very well be able to. Just keep this in mind:
Italy and the U.K. are out. Peru and South Africa are in.U.S. students are changing their study-abroad preferences, forgoing Western Europe for Africa, Asia and Latin America. Funding and expenses are among the reasons, experts say. More less-developed countries are facilitating partnerships for U.S. student grants, and more students are taking advantage of them. Students are finding destinations such as Chile, China and Argentina less expensive than traditional study-abroad places such as the United Kingdom, Italy and France,Austria, sometimes even less expensive than studying at home.

That, among other things, is making study-abroad opportunities available to a wider range of students.U.S. students are traveling to more nontraditional destinations than ever before," Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Institute of International Education, said in an e-mail.In addition to the countries in Western Europe, which have been the leading host countries for American undergraduates, our students are exploring destinations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Also, the U.S. government, host countries and other stakeholders are working hard to make study-abroad opportunities accessible to the widest range of U.S. students, including those from minority backgrounds and underrepresented fields of study. We see these positive trends continuing into the future.The intensification of globalization has coincided with a steady increase in the number of U.S. students studying abroad. More than 260,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2008-09, slightly fewer than the number who studied abroad the previous year but about four times the number who studied abroad in 1989-90, according to the Institute of International Education, which says it counts study abroad students as those who go abroad to study but receive credit from their U.S. institution.Students can also get a lot of exposure while studying in such universities and different course Engineering,European Studies and informatics.

Seventy percent of study-abroad aid comes from programs sponsored by the students' home colleges, said the IIE. The remainder comes from government agencies, host countries, third-party donors and other colleges in consortiums with the students' colleges. New grants are available from host countries such as China and Germany, said the IIE's Blumenthal, while the U.S. departments of State and Education are helping to fund partnership grants with colleges in India, Indonesia and other countries.If you register directly through the host university, tuition can be less, too, especially if your home college is on the expensive side,she said.Baltimore's Goucher College, which the institute listed No. 1 in the U.S. among baccalaureate institutions for undergraduate study-abroad participation in 2008-09, requires studying abroad. Students get $1,200 vouchers from the college, then use aid to help pay for the rest. Students are making the most of their money.

Many are shying away from Western Europe because it's expensive to stay there,said Angela Shaeffer, Goucher's assistant director of the office of international studies.Instead of studying French in Paris, for example, they might study it in Cameroon.Tala Karadsheh, of Arlington, Va., said it cost her less to live in China for one semester in 2009 than it did at her home school, the College of William & Mary.I could eat (in China) for only $30 a month," she said. She said her Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship covered most of the cost of her plane tickets, tuition and room and board.Carl Herrin, a consultant based in Silver Spring, Md., who advises colleges about international study, said circumstances in addition to funding and finances have helped increase study-abroad growth in countries outside Western Europe. Cost and ease of travel have improved over the past 30 or so years. And, of course, political climates have changed dramatically.

The whole notion that places like Central Asia are now open for the truly adventurous wasn't even on the map when I was in college,said Herrin, who said he's in his 50s.We've upped the's much more the case that you're not looking for the absolutely best student at the best campus. It's now very democratized. There's this expectation that you can go to a second- or third-tier institution and that you, too, can study abroad.Used to be, it was mostly humanities students going to Europe,the IIE's Blumenthal said.Now it includes students in prelaw, premed, business and other majors. More are going to Asia, Africa and South America. They realize that 21st-century careers are global. They see it as a competitive advantage.Here are some important things to remember about studying abroad and about funding:

These are rigorous programs. It's not playtime,said Natalie Mello, director of global operations at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, Mass. Recent program topics for that school's students included earthquakes in Taiwan and solar energy in India.Generally, students may apply federal financial aid to studying abroad, college advisers say.Students must do their own legwork to secure financial aid, advisers say. Look to your extended family, church and local service clubs for loans or grants, said consultant Carl Herrin. "You can't have what you don't ask for,he said.Like Wayne Gretzky said, 'You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.Search your college's study-abroad and financial aid offices for grants and scholarships.Ask your faculty adviser, who may have connections overseas,said Peggy Blumenthal of the Institute of International Education.Application deadlines vary, so plan at least a year ahead. Read the fine print; some but not all grants and scholarships cover travel and living expenses.Write a good, solid application essay, which you can tweak and use for other apps too,said Tala Karadsheh, a former College of William & Mary student. Talk to people who have gone (overseas) already; they'll have good advice.

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