Western students find global learning opportunities
Earning college credit or completing an internship doesn't have to get in the way of students' plans to travel the world.
In fact, a growing number of WWU students – 538 last year alone – are earning credits toward graduation while studying or interning in more than 50 countries around the world.
Some, like Sarah Maloney, who studied Spanish in Chile, want to immerse themselves in another country to learn the language and culture. Others, like Matthew Christian, who completed a manufacturing internship in China, want to add a global perspective to their academic studies.
Top 10 study-abroad destinations in 2010-11
- Japan, 47 students
- Mexico, 44 students
- Greece and Costa Rica (tie) 39 students
- Italy, 37 students
- Spain, 31 students
- England, 26 students
- Germany, 24 students
- France, 22 students
- South Africa, 21 students
- Kenya, 19 students
Still others are seeking a bit of adventure, like Kirk Capron, who enrolled in the National University of Mongolia and became part of the English faculty there while learning about Mongolia's nomadic culture. And Hannah Crichton traveled the world with the Semester at Sea program, taking classes in world affairs from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and camping at the Great Wall of China.
Students wondering how international experiences could fit into their academic plans at Western might get some ideas by visiting the International Programs and Exchanges Office, which helps hundreds of students each year with the logistics of international study.
"We try to help direct and guide students to find a program that fits their academic and personal goals," says Liz Partolan-Fray, Western's director of International Programs and Exchanges.
Students have many options for global study. Some work with Western to enroll in another university abroad for a term or more. For example, a student who is fluent in German and interested in international business could take business classes at a university in Austria. Or, students may enroll at a university in Australia or England for classes in English. Enrolling in a university abroad through Direct Exchange is one of the inexpensive study-abroad options for students, who often pay WWU tuition rates, even if tuition and fees are higher at the institution they're visiting.
Other students opt to enroll in a program just for international students. Such programs typically offer extra support for English-speaking students and are a good bet for those who want to experience another language and culture, but aren't ready to completely fend for themselves in another country.
Western can also help students connect with organizations to arrange internships around the world. Some teachers-in-training complete some of their student teaching in another country. Others seek out service-learning opportunities or on-the-job experiences with a global perspective.
Finally, a growing number of Western students are traveling abroad with study groups led by WWU faculty members, Partolan-Fray says. This year, Western faculty are leading short-term study abroad courses to Kenya, China, Greece, Costa Rica, Italy, Peru, Rwanda and elsewhere. These courses are typically shorter than a quarter, and might be a less-expensive alternative to spending one or two quarters abroad.
When can Western students go abroad? Students must have completed at least 36 credits, or sophomore status to go abroad. Grades matter, too – some programs require a 3.0 grade point average.
And program fees and costs vary: A few students spend less money on their schooling abroad than they would at Western, but most spend more. Some spend a lot more. But scholarships are available and students' financial aid packages may help with the costs.
Students who are interested in exploring their international options can learn more at Thursday's International Opportunities Fair. Another first step is to talk to an academic or faculty advisor to see how their global vision fits in to their academic plans.