By ANJA KLOKOCKA
Every Kennesaw State University student should get the opportunity to study abroad and submerge themselves into different cultures.
Tara McDuffie, assistant director of Education Abroad & Exchanges, has been with KSU since 2010. McDuffie started at KSU as an accountant and quickly moved up holding many different roles such as advisor and senior advisor. McDuffie works close with the director helping to implement, plan, and manage all of the education abroad programs that KSU offers.
“I think everyone should study abroad,” McDuffie said. “See what else is out there. It is good to gain that global perspective. It helps to shape who we are and how we function as a society and it gives us a different outlook.”
McDuffie does the forecasting on what the students’ needs are and what they are interested in, to ensure that every KSU student should be able to find a study abroad program that fits their needs. McDuffie also works closely with the individual Colleges to figure out what their needs are as well. Although McDuffie is very busy as assistant director, she does still help students with advising as well and is currently working on two programs.
KSU currently offers two programs for students, studying abroad and an exchange program. Studying abroad programs are shorter, usually lasting two to six weeks. KSU faculty members go along on study abroad programs to teach, take the students on field trips, and to be with the students at all times. KSU offers over 30 study abroad programs.
The exchange program is a longer period of time, typically a semester or a year. Students who participate in the exchange programs would need to be OK with being more independent and being on their own and having to explore more.
“You hear the language, you see the colors, you see everything that is different from what you are used to,” McDuffie said, “Unlike with the short term program, where after just a few weeks you come back home.”
Exchange programs are certainly good for students who are learning another language. It allows the students to learn the culture. Most students, however, participate the short-term study abroad program.
“I do think this is the best time for students to actually do it. When you graduate, you are in the real world and you really see what things cost,” McDuffie said. “But we try to really assist our students with the program in trying to make it as economical as possible.”
If a student is interested in studying abroad, the key is to start planning early. Students should not wait until their last semester to ensure that the program will count toward their academic goals. There are also many programs that cater to general elective courses.
Shawn Griffin, 28, graduated with a Master of Science from East Carolina University and had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program for two weeks in Paris, France for his broadcast journalism undergraduate degree.
“I found the trip beneficial for my journalism major. It provided prospective to the various levels of censorship regulated for European publications as well as European based American publications.” Griffin said.
A typical day during a short-term study abroad program varies. Some programs may offer field trips for the student where they visit museums or landmarks that relate to their course work. The student will then write a report about the field trip or participate in a class discussion the following day.
Other study abroad programs may participate in a partnership program, which is similar to a buddy system. In this program a KSU student will be partnered up with a student in the country. Each day, the students are required to spend three hours together but often times the students spend a lot more time together.
The partnership program allows each student to learn about the other student’s culture and language. The students often keep in touch years after their study abroad program ended. Most study abroad programs allow free time for the students to explore on their own as well.
“When you are on an education abroad program, it is an academic program and you are getting academic credit, but it is more to it than just studying, reading, and sitting in a classroom. We try to balance that out,” McDuffie said.
“The trip was an awesome experience. During my two weeks in Paris, France, I was able to step outside my comfort zone,” Griffin said. “Taking in such sights as the Eiffel tower and the Louvre museum, I found a calmness.”
The average cost for a study abroad program depends on the length of the program a student selects. But on average the cost could range from $2,500 to $5,400 and most programs include airfare, medical emergency insurance, lodging, admissions, and some if not all food.
Depending on the country a student selects for their study abroad program, they may need a visa, which they will be informed of when filling out the application. Global Admissions is there to help should a student have any visa questions. Students would also want to ensure that their passport is valid for at least six months.
KSU offers a lot of assistance to make a study abroad program more affordable. The main scholarship KSU offers is the Global learning scholarship. Every KSU student pays $14 each semester for the Global Learning Scholarship. Every student is eligible for this scholarship as long as he or she meets satisfactory academic progress. There is no application needed as students are automatically enrolled.
Most scholarships are stackable as well, so no matter how small the scholarship may be, it will be very beneficial for the student. Students are also encouraged to create fundraisers through Gofundme.com to tell their story.
“We understand that making the decision to go on an education abroad program is not an easy one, especially when it comes to the finances. But we try to find creative ways to make it happen for the student,” McDuffie said. “We try to encourage them, we try to say you can do it. We open all the doors that we possibly can just to let them know there might be something there for you. Because we believe that studying abroad is just as important as anything else. It is a life changing event.”