Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Students overlook study options abroad

Steve Duran, a senior business major, said studying abroad was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that enriched his college experience.I think from the moment I arrived in Beijing, I realized that my life would never be the same when I left the country,said Duran, who is studying entertainment tourism and management.Duran studied abroad during the 2009-10 academic year. He said that studying abroad allows you to apply life skills you might not use here in the states and said if the opportunity presents itself, students should take advantage of studying abroad.However, Cal State Fullerton students seem to overlook the study abroad programs entirely. According to communications Professor Dean Kazoleas, who runs a study abroad program, the percentage of students sent by private universities to study abroad is about 30 to 40 percent, compared to CSUF where the total number is 0.3 percent of students.Study abroad adviser Kathryn Morrissey said last year the university sent only 150 students to study abroad. However, this year the projected numbers appear to be 250, which is a big increase, but she would still like to see more.

Morrissey also said these numbers tend to align with national figures. According to the Institute for International Education Open Doors survey, 260,000 students from the United States study abroad in other countries.CSUF allows students to participate in any study abroad program that is accredited, which means the courses students take need to be accredited by some organization, usually the ministry of education for that country.There are approximately 9,000 study abroad programs and the study abroad website breaks them down into four distinct categories.The first category is exchange programs. CSUF has agreements with 10 different universities. CSUF sends a student to study at one those universities and they send somebody over here. These run for either a semester or a full year.

The second category is the international programs. These are a part of the whole CSU. Some of them are exchange programs where they send a student and the other university receives a student. But some are traditional exchange programs where they just send a student and don’t receive. Duran participated in one of these types of programs.The third category is department programs. These are programs that are offered by the different colleges at CSUF. The colleges that do these the most are the College of Business, College of Communications and College of Humanities and Social Sciences.The last category is non-CSUF programs. This is where the majority of the 9,000 options come into play. It’s essentially any program that is not affiliated with CSUF.Pretty much as long as you are going to get transcripts from an accredited college, we are going to let you go,said Morrisey.There is no way to give a precise estimate for an overall cost of a study abroad program. There are different factors such as the location, the university, the length of time and the spending habits of each person.Kazolea’s study abroad program to Korea is $3,800 and that includes room and board for four-and-a-half months as well as airfare to and from Korea. That is on top of tuition to CSUF.Students can also get a lot of exposure while studying in such universities and different course Global Production Engineering,Cultural Encounters and Bioinformatics.

In his program, Kazoleas takes students to study at the Dong-Ah Institute for Media and Arts in Korea. He started the program back in 2002 when he was teaching at Illinois State, and he brought back the program in 2009.Kazoleas believes there are three criteria for a good study abroad program: it has to be useful for a student’s degree, it has to be affordable for students and there needs to be a fun factor for the students as well. He said if programs build on those three, they tend to work.I would never recommend a student go abroad if they are not making progress toward their degree.Rather what I suggest is that they go abroad and take classes that are going to help them grow both professionally in their major and both developmentally as a person,Kazoleas said.

The students that have gone, according to Kazoleas, seemed to have really enjoyed the program. Many of them have actually gone back to Korea.Kazolea’s program is open to students of any major, although at the moment it is mainly communications students. Examples of classes students can take include media ethics, video production, post production, public relations writing, international public relations, research methods, photography and there are also two 40-hour internships. There are also performing arts classes and graphic design.It’s eye-opening in terms of a global perspective.When you see how other people live, you see how other cultures vary, you see how things work differently in different countries. It really changes your perspective of the world,Kazoleas said.For Duran, his experience in China was certainly an eye-opening experience. He said that while Bejing is a lot like many modern cities, he wasn’t prepared for the large amounts of people and said it was a bit intimidating. He also noticed there was a big emphasis on group ties and family in China.

He recalls that the heater was centralized, with fixed dates set by the government. He also remembers having a dryer in his dorm room, but that it didn’t do much and he still had to hang up his clothes to dry.During his time, he said some of the sights he saw included the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. There was also plenty of travel within and outside of China.The study abroad class Duran took was Mandarin, so he said afterward he came back with a better understanding of the language.Personally, it made me a more mature person. I had to make my own decisions and handle my finances better than how I did here. Also, I feel like I learned a lot about the culture and gained a respect and admiration for the people I interacted with,Duran said.

According to Duran, the whole experience cost him about $25,000. This included air travel to and from Beijing, tuition fees, living expenses like food and cell phone minutes, and travel both within and outside China. He did receive a scholarship from the international programs that helped supplement his financial aid.When asked why students don’t participate in study abroad programs, Morrissey said there are five main reasons, which she called the five F’s, and those are family, friends, fear, faculty and finances.However she said the benefits outweigh the cons. There are personal, professional and academic benefits to studying abroad, and the main things students get from studying abroad are independence and confidence.I think it’s a great opportunity and for the most part if you plan early enough, there are ways we can cover any of the questions you may have,Morrissey said.

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