Leave the misconceptions behind and go away! Study abroad!
By Emily Crawford
The older we get, the faster time seems to fly. From classes to work to making chapter meetings to trying to squeeze in a social life, we barely have a moment to breathe. Before we know it, all those cool new ideas we heard about at Orientation before starting this four-year rollercoaster seem completely impossible to accomplish before we graduate. Probably one of the most exciting of those ideas is study abroad.
It seems that we students have our own ideas about what studying abroad is and how likely —or rather unlikely—it is that we will be able to participate in such an amazing experience. It’s almost as if we already think we can’t so why bother to check it out? Misconceptions—even myths—says Skip Langley, Study Abroad Advisor.
“Misinformation and outright falsehoods keep many students from even considering studying abroad each year,” said Langley. “Too many students mistakenly believe that there is no place in their academic plan or major for time abroad or that study abroad is just a luxury that they can neither afford nor benefit from. Au contraire!”
What follows are some of the most common myths about studying abroad and, more importantly, the facts to debunk them.
The first and foremost concern of most students is the cost: How can I study abroad when it’s so expensive? The Study Abroad Office quickly asserts that this is false notion. A UM student studying abroad for a fall or spring semester pays the same base Ole Miss tuition, and receives the exact same financial aid (loans, scholarships, and/or grants) as he or she would on the Oxford campus. There are also many scholarships for which students can apply for summer or intersession terms.
Some students feel that studying abroad will delay their graduation: Studying abroad will set me behind a semester. Another false. When students study abroad, they are attending universities where they will receive Ole Miss course credit.
“We make sure that before a student leaves all of the courses they will be taking abroad will transfer to UM classes through a course approval process,” Langley said. “We make sure to set students up with appropriate programs that match their goals. He laughs and adds, “We’re not sleazy used-car salesmen who try to put you in a Ford Pinto when you want to drive a Range Rover. We’re a very student-oriented office that always tries to do what we can for every students who comes through our door.”
The fact is that you can typically earn college credits while studying abroad, both toward fulfilling general education requirements as well as toward your major. In fact, study abroad can give your language skills such a boost that adding a minor or even a second major in a language may require very few, if any, additional courses after you return to Ole Miss.
Traveling to different countries is definitely a step out of most students’ comfort zones. So to be safe I should study in an English speaking country, right? It honestly just depends on your preference. Langley suggests looking at the language of instruction at the host school as opposed to the official language of the country. Are you thinking Italy, Spain, or France? Langley reassures students that you can go and still feel comfortable with the language barrier.
“English is the international language of business. People in foreign countries are learning English at a very early age, so students who travel to non-English speaking countries will find many people who are either proficient enough in English, or fluent. Also, students need to keep in mind that they will most likely be joined by other Americans at their host institution.”
All well and good, but our parents have concerns as well. With the world in the state it is today, is it even safe to travel abroad? The UM Study Abroad Office makes the safety of Ole Miss students their number one priority. Before arranging a partnership with an international institution, at least one member of the Study Abroad staff has properly vetted everything about the institution.
“Traveling abroad is not entirely different from traveling in the US,” Langley says. “Would you get in a car with a complete stranger or engage someone that looks shady in the States? Of course not. Staying safe while traveling is 90 percent common sense regardless of where you are.”
But our parents aren’t as easily convinced: What if something did happen while you were traveling abroad? Langley has an answer for that, too.
“We are very responsive to our students who are abroad, and we have procedures in place that allows us to quickly address any type of emergency that might occur. We go over our policy extensively during the mandatory orientation sessions prior to students’ departure.”
Great information, but what’s the rush? I have plenty of time to travel and see the world after graduating from college, right? That could be true. Realistically, though, upon graduating, the next step is finding a job —which means it’s going to become harder than ever to take time off to travel abroad or spend any sufficient period of time soaking up the local culture as studying abroad allows.
Now is the best time to go on new adventures, and where better to start than studying in a different country, immersing yourself in a rich new culture? It’s time to act—fast. Deadlines are quickly approaching. The fall semester deadline is March 21; for summer 2012, March 28. Langley and the rest of the SA staff are ready to help you—go away.
The UM Study Abroad office is located in 359 Martindale. You can contact SA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662.915.1508.
Study Abroad Advisor Skip Langley studied abroad in England while a student at Ole Miss.