By JASMINE HARRIS
The students could feel the extreme humidity in the air the second they stepped off
the airplane and into the airport. Then the group stepped outside.
“This is nothing like Georgia heat,” one student said.
This type of heat felt heavy and was thick with an unfamiliar scent. It was nothing
any of the students had ever experienced before. It was their first time traveling to China for a study abroad trip.
With today’s increasing global challenges demanding international competence for
better employment opportunities, many college students are taking advantage of
study abroad programs.
Study abroad programs have become a vital component of university education. In addition to life-long memories and life-changing experiences, study abroad programs
provide students with an in-depth look at different cultures, languages, traditions and beliefs of people from different parts of the world.
Though study abroad trips may be costly, students have created numerous ways to absorb that cost. Hongmei Gao, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication at Kennesaw State University, had an innovative idea for students to pay for their trip.
“Divide the cost. If a trip is $3,000 get $1,000 from your parents, $1,000 from your salary, $1,000 from your friends,” Gao said. “It’s an investment for yourself.”
KSU also offers the Global Learning Scholarship for many students.
Companies like Diversity Abroad have partnered with organizations to provide study abroad international grants and scholarships. They provide a listing of programs, how-to
guides, articles, travel deals and more. They also offer an International Jobs and Career Center online for global career opportunities in the United States and abroad.
Faculty at KSU encourage students to take part in these trips and point out numerous
“Learning by doing and seeing; it’s very different than being in class and memorizing,” Linda Malgeri, associate professor of accounting, said.
The study abroad experience provides the student with additional learning experiences outside of the classroom. Students gain cross-cultural skills and a better understanding of other cultures. In addition, the experience can often increase students’ self-confidence and give them an entirely new perspective on their home country.
“What’s available here might not be available in other countries, so appreciate what you have here,” Gao said.
Experiencing a new country with a group of students who are not familiar with each other is also a great way to form life-long bonds. Few things form faster friendships than
being dropped off in a foreign country of non-English speakers. You learn to support
and depend on each other.
“[Studying abroad] has tremendous benefits,” Gao said. “It opens your eyesight to see another way of life and thinking, and experiencing other cultures and history. It also helps
you to be more independent because you have to overcome your comfort zones. Also, it helps motivate you to learn another language.”
Students also have the opportunity to gain more credentials in the workplace. Many companies are impressed with applicants who have study abroad experience on their resume. Some students even receive internship opportunities from studying abroad. By adding this experience to their resumes, students may have a better chance in the
competitive job market of today.