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Study Abroad – Institutional Support

EyquemEyquem Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
I have a high school senior who is interested in study abroad as part of the college education.

I know just about every school indicates that they offer study abroad as an option, but I have to imagine there are widely varying degrees of institutional support for it. And I know that it can also depend on your major (generally difficult for engineers to study abroad for any extended period).

I would like to ask parents out there who have had students who studied abroad, if they would be willing to briefly share the level of institutional support their son/daughter received. (Alternatively, if you had a student who was interested but chose NOT to study abroad because the school made it difficult (e.g. did not give enough course credit and would require staying in college an extra semester, etc), that would be helpful to know, too).

I am NOT looking for information about how valuable or not the experience was for the student (even though that is of course the reason to undertake study abroad). I am primarily interested in finding out the kind of actual support (or the lack thereof) provided by different school administrations for the students' study abroad effort, from "you arrange it, you pay for it, and you won't get much course credit for it" to "here are some great programs offered by our school/ organized by our professors, all your scholarships will count toward your semester away and you get full semester credit for everything, just sign up!" and everything in between. Please include the name of the school if you feel comfortable doing so.

If there are particular lessons learned ("make sure student arranges x,y, or z") those would be appreciated as well.

Thank you in advance for your replies.

Replies to: Study Abroad – Institutional Support

  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 11,365 Senior Member
    edited February 2017
    It really depends on the school -- and how much you're paying.

    Some universities -- particularly pricey private ones -- run their own programs abroad, with courses taught by the home university and its own faculty. Housing, orientation and additional travel are all offered to the participating students, such logistics as registration & credit are easily taken care of, and the school will have its own on-site coordinator(s) for additional support if necessary. So lots of hand holding, lots of support - at a cost that can be... ahem... astronomical. (Like, over $30,000 per semester at Syracuse University's Beijing program - not including air fare.)

    Many other schools, especially the large public universities, either send their students to other schools' programs or have have agreements with the hosting in-country institution, with minimal support beyond that. And the cost reflects the difference from the program I described above.

    As a paying parent, I would be more concerned about stuff like -- will this be an immersion program, will there be students from other nations taking part in this program, or will my kid hang around American students from his/her own school taking American-style courses taught in English by American professors? Is there a choice in housing (dorms vs. homestay, for example)? How are grades awarded? How much communication is there between the student's own department and the program to ensure there's no difficulties with credit? What kind of orientation will the program offer in the first weeks?

    I'll add that IMO a study abroad program should push the kid beyond his/her comfort zone. It should challenge, both personally and academically. It shouldn't be in some expat-haven filled with Americans. It shouldn't be in an American-style college/university. Otherwise, why even do it?
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 10,119 Senior Member
    There are so many variables: exchange vs. host-school-run vs. home-school-run vs. third-party, costing philosophy (at some schools, you pay whatever you paid your home school and get fin aid, at others, you pay the in-state rate, and at others still, there can be huge differences across programs with some being cheaper than in-state and some more than private full-pay prices).

    Honestly, you'd need to look into the details of the schools and program(s), but that isn't hard to do with the internet these days. That's also true when it comes to program reviews.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 15,095 Senior Member
    My daughter is on Study abroad right now. At her school, there are 3 ways to study abroad: 1) thru the school's sponsored program in London (send their professors plus have other courses too), 2) at a school where they have an exchange, and 3) through a program you arrange on your own.

    For the school's program, the cost of tuition, room, and breakfast (it's a homestay) is more than instate tuition and less than OOS, about $9000 (since we're OOS, it's a bargain). She can use all her school FA plus there is an extra scholarship for study abroad at her school of $1000 (thank you Dick Cheney). Some departments offer scholarships too.

    For the exchange programs, they are with schools that offer special tuition rates, although not all of those are affordable. The guarantee is that the courses will transfer, and it is easier than if you try to arrange it all yourself. They can use their same FA.

    There are summer courses that involve foreign travel - art, architecture, archeology, foreign language, usually lead by a prof from the school .There might be funding or the student can apply for FA, but if the student has used all her FA during the school year, there might not be any available for a summer session.

    My other daughter goes to a STEM school, and they do have several study abroad programs. They have a Maymester in Oxford (very expensive) and they have summer programs in different places. They also arrange co-ops abroad, on ships or oil platforms,or on engineering sites. My daughter can't do a traditional study abroad semester because she's an athlete, but many STEM students do them.

    My nephew who is in engineering looked into doing a semester abroad, but decided he'd just travel for a couple of weeks every summer. His girlfriend had a very cool program last year in Sweden and Iceland. She's in environmental engineering and spent about 6 weeks studying tundra and things like that.
  • MassmommMassmomm Registered User Posts: 2,992 Senior Member
    I cannot praise my daughter's program highly enough. She went to France with the Wellesley-in-Aix program, which is also open to students from other colleges.
    The school chose Aix-en-Provence, rather than Paris, for their program because there are fewer English speakers there. They have their own house in the town that serves as the base for the program, but the students live with well-vetted host families. (I would not pay for a program that didn't have the option of living with a host family. This is the ONLY way to learn a foreign language and culture.)
    My daughter lived with her family for 10 months, because she worked in France after her school year ended.

    The director of Wellesley-in-Aix was available the entire time she was there, and really came through during a health crisis early in her stay. The program also hosted gatherings for the host families throughout the year.
  • SweetbeetSweetbeet Registered User Posts: 564 Member
    At the University of Denver, they provide lots of support for many different kinds of programs. There are many "partner" programs, with universities around the world, or they will also help if you want to go on an unaffiliated program. They don't have courses taught by DU professors, I think all the programs involve attending classes at an actual foreign institution. For example, my son went to the University of Glasgow for a semester (there are semester and year-long programs). He lived in University housing, had to provide his own meals (they have a kitchen, he had to get groceries and cook), used public transportation to get around the city, attended classes with regular degree students (local and international, like at any large university), etc.

    DU has an office of international education (OIE) that provides help, vets applications and assigns students to programs (they are encouraged to pick a second choice if their first choice has limited availability; some, like Glasgow, are easier to get into because the school can take more foreign students), provides orientation before leaving, etc. We paid exactly what we would have paid if he'd stayed at DU, even his financial aid was the same. And the Cherrington Scholars program even pays airfare and application fees, up to a very reasonable limit, if the student meets the (pretty easy) requirements (I think a 3.0 gpa is the main requirement, IIRC). They set gpa requirements for the different programs, which helps to get students into places where they can succeed. For example, a 3.3 was required for Glasgow; my son's friend didn't make that cut, and had to go to another uni in the UK that had a lower cutoff. But my son didn't qualify for Warwick (a very selective uni), which required an even higher gpa. As it turned out, Glasgow was challenging but my son did well, it was a good fit for him academically.

    I couldn't ask for more in terms of institutional support, than what DS got from DU. I think over 65% of DU students study abroad (it was 76% one year, it has come down a bit but I don't know why; it may be that they are growing their engineering program, and it is harder for engineering students to do it and still graduate in 4 years.

    DU isn't cheap, but they give good merit aid and meet full need for some students.
  • colfac92colfac92 Registered User Posts: 220 Junior Member
    Some colleges have a "First Semester Abroad" program, where a group of entering students are sent to study abroad before joining the rest of their cohort on campus mid-way through the year. My son was in one of these programs this past fall. He was in France. The level of support from the institution was very good.

    I think one way to assess the level of support from an institution for study abroad might be to look at the percentage of the student body that spends at least one semester abroad before graduation. At my son's college, that number is reportedly around 70%!

    A college that repeatedly sends a lot of students abroad is likely to be fairly well versed with the ins-and-outs of different programs and options for their students, so each cohort of students going abroad are generally not going to have to re-invent the wheel every time.

    In contrast, one of my students at the college where I teach shared with me his experience going to France. I know it sounds far-fetched, but he said he was the first student that our college had sent to France in several years... So there was a lot of re-learning that had to be done by the global education office in order for them to be able to provide him any support at all. He was largely on his own.

  • EyquemEyquem Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    edited February 2017
    Thank you for all the responses so far. Yes, I am aware that quite a bit depends on the school, and that some schools run their own programs in addition to having third party/external program options. I am aware that just about every school publishes study abroad information on their website. I was mostly hoping to hear about ACTUAL experiences in terms of institutional support, so thank you especially for those reports! Especially helpful might be accounts of school sponsored vs third party (with good vs not-so-good school support).

    We used percentage of students studying abroad as one of our initial filters to narrow down to schools that seemed likely to be more supportive of studying abroad. So yes, I assume that Goucher, which requires study abroad for all students, probably has reasonable support for it (though maybe a parent/student from Goucher might have a specific example to shed additional light on it).
  • college_querycollege_query Registered User Posts: 4,068 Senior Member
    My 2 (one at Wellesley, one at Bowdoin) both did a semester abroad through programs approved by their schools. Both received significant need-based aid. The need-based aid continued the semesters they studied abroad. It ended up being somewhat less expensive for us the semesters they studied abroad, due to the tuition costs being lower.

    Their study-abroad programs were not specifically affiliated with their schools, but were "approved" programs. This meant there would be no issues with credits transferring.

    S was a double-major in history and German. When he studied abroad in Germany, all his classes were in German. Even though he took all history classes that semester, they all transferred as credits for his German major. He actually wasn't planning to double-major in German, but with the way his study abroad credits would transfer, it made sense to declare a second major.
  • boyetusaboyetusa Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    edited February 2017
    My 2 kids' overseas studies in Stanford were handled very well (Spain and Italy). I couldn't be more impressed. On the other hand, my S at UCSD is going to Germany for summer study this year. Not quite the same level of support but just needs a little bit of push. I expect the last kid, who is at CMU, to receive the same support as in Stanford when ready later on. PM if you have further questions.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,838 Senior Member
    My son was an International Relations major at Tufts. The department will not grant IR credit for any course not run by Tufts something we certainly weren't aware of. Tufts IR also requires you to take four years of a language or have fluency in a language. My son chose to take Arabic and was interested in security issues and the Middle East. Unfortunately Tufts does not run any programs in the Middle East. He ended up doing three study abroad programs. All were in Jordan, each run by a different outfit. He got credit from the Arabic department for a school year of Arabic, and he got Gen Ed credit for all the other courses he took.

    The three course he took were:

    SIT Jordan summer course
    He took this course after freshman year because he had struggled so much with Arabic. They had homestays, but apparently there were real issues especially for the men because they couldn't stay with observant Muslim families and actually be part of family life. He stayed one week with a Christian family that spoke English in the home, father was British and seemed to be pretty prejudiced so he asked to be moved. The second place he was put in a penthouse completely separate from the family. They fed him pita bread and jam for dinner - brought to his room. Not what I'd been expecting at all. The women had better experiences in general.

    CET - Intensive language study
    This was by far the best experience. The program at the time was in Irbid (where no one speaks English) and they had a language pledge that most students kept. They paired students with Jordanian language partners and had them live in apartments with Jordanian university students. There were some kinks in the program because they'd had to move from Syria the year before, but basically it was a good program - he came back very comfortable with the language.

    CIEE - Diplomacy and Policy Studies
    This was in Amman. No language pledge. They lived with other Amercian students. He was attracted to it because it included an internship. The internships varied in usefulness. He thought his was pretty useless, but it did end up actually being something that people mentioned they had been impressed by seeing on his resume.

    As full pay parents all of these programs including the air fare were much cheaper than Tufts.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 10,562 Senior Member
    I'm just going to throw this out there - my kid's school has all study abroad students fill out a detailed questionnaire when they return and makes these available on the school website (kid must log in to view them). The reports detail the student's experiences from courses to dorm/host family/apartment, free time, how much spending money they went though and a lot more. Your child's school may have something similar.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 18,836 Senior Member
    edited February 2017
    My daughter's school (Barnard) encouraged study abroad, but required that students have studied the language of the host country for 2 years (or have equivalent level of fluency). So that was a limiting factor -- my daughter's options were limited to Russian or English speaking countries. She made a decision to study abroad fairly late - in her fall semester of her junior year, she decided to study in Russia in the spring. Everything else was easy -- she signed up for a well-established program administered by another US college (Bard) -- her own college maintained an extensive list of qualifying programs.

    Daughter received need-based financial aid at a college that purported to meet 100% need-- and that included a commitment to pay the tuition for any study abroad program. So the way things worked is that student continues to pay regular home-school tuition, and the college in turn pays the study abroad program fees.

    The tuition for the Bard study abroad program was actually somewhat more costly, but it didn't matter because the college paid the fees for her -- we were just billed the regular amount for tuition. The financial aid amount was adjusted somewhat because of differences in housing costs, but we actually came out ahead because costs for housing abroad were significantly less than dorm fees; and financial aid was also adjusted to cover the cost of airfare abroad. I don't remember whether the costs of getting a visa and insurance were covered by the program or not. Just that when all the math was said and done, daughter ended up with about +$500 over and above where her usual financial aid budget left her. She also was allowed to double up on work study hours in the fall so she was able to earn her full work study allotment.

    So basically except for the restriction on location, the college was 100% supportive and made it very easy to study abroad, with literally dozens of programs she could have chosen.

    My daughter was able to pursue coursework for her major at the study abroad program. She was required to get coursework pre-approved in order to be sure that it would receive credit for it. Howeve, she also ended up taking one extra elective course that had not been pre-approved (an art class), and was also given general course credit for that when she returned.

    Even though my daughter was studying in Russia, the coursework in her major abroad (poli sci) was taught in English -- so no problem with grades -- she got the exact same grades abroad as she had been earning at home in equivalent courses. So roughly half her courseload was Russian-language instruction, with the other half being coursework toward her major taught in English.

    I think you are wise to be asking these questions before your child enrolls -- and I'd suggest reading through the study abroad information on the college web site so you are aware of school policies about cost allocation and course credit.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,659 Senior Member
    edited February 2017
    My daughter spent a summer in northern Italy (near Milan) as a student at Rhode Island School of Design. It was a farm-like situation, at a place that was also a vinyard. It was not an immersion in Italian language. But it did provide intercultural experience.

    My son spent a year abroad at the London School of Economics. To be sure, he learned British English, but also had his first extended foreign experience, taking courses with students from many countries, and learning to like coffee and beer. He accumulated credits that counted toward his baccalaureate degree at the University of Chicago, while also exploring some subjects outside his major. He learned the tube, went on trips to Ireland, Amsterdam, Germany, and elsewhere. This was his first extended European exposure. I think it was important as a break from American culture, in a major international city. He learned to cope in a very different environment from home and his home university. See https://study-abroad.uchicago.edu/programs/britishirish-partner-institutions.

    Back in the day, when she was a student at Wisconsin, my wife participated in a study abroad year in Aix-en-Provence, organized jointly with the University of Michigan. This was true immersion. The American students were distributed in dorms and other residential houses with French and other international students who attended the University of Provence. Lectures were in French, everything was the French curriculum. The dorm food was French (including the occasional meal in which the featured course was brains). She learned to speak French well. That was the first year of that program, which still exists: https://www.lsa.umich.edu/saa/publications/courseguide/fall/archive/fall90.cg/study.abroad.html. This is truly an immersion program. Some dtudents from other US colleges and universities (e.g., Swarthmore) also participated in the program.

    For all of these programs, the credits earned counted toward program requirements and electives at the home institution. These experiences were valued by the students and given full credit at the home colleges.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 65,089 Senior Member
    It toallty depends on the school my kid did a study abroad in London when he was a Boston University undergrad...in 2005. At the time, BU actually had dorms and classroom space in Kensington...which was really nice. We just paid BU the same cost as it would,have been to attend in Boston...actually it may have been a tad less because the tuition in London was less. My kid was at the Royal Collwge of Music. It was an awesome semester abroad.

    His merit scholarship from BU was applied to the study abroad.

    BU has a pretty large study abroad program, and actually takes students from other universities...or at least they did when my kid was there.
  • EyquemEyquem Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share your real-world experiences with study abroad. It really helps me with context for what is presented on-line from various schools. Hopefully it will help some others, too.

    @mathmom Three study abroad sessions sounds like a lot more than most schools would be happy with or accept (based on my very limited understanding). Is that within the bounds of "normal" or is it because your son was an International Relations major, and one was a summer course?

    Again, all the stories are appreciated, and others are welcome to chime in with their experiences.
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