Study abroad opens doors and minds for students

By Michael Moore Jr.

For students interested in venturing the globe for college credit, application deadlines for summer study abroad opportunities are fast approaching.

USF St. Petersburg’s Education Abroad program offers a variety of faculty-led trips and semester exchange programs that allow students to study abroad, whether in a U.S. territory outside the 50 states or internationally, while earning credit toward their degree. The applications for the professor-guided trips – which include classes in France, Germany and Taiwan among other destinations – are due Jan. 31 and can be found on the school’s website.

Joseph Kenny, program manager for Education Abroad at USF St. Petersburg, said that traveling and experiencing other cultures can be just as valuable as anything a student learns inside the classroom.

“I think personal growth becomes a real component,” he said. “When you’re outside of your own framework and your known constellation of family, friends and culture, you learn a lot about yourself, I think, not just as a person but also in terms of perspective.”

Kenny always knew he wanted to study overseas at some point.

Initially, he thought it would be in France, because that was the language he was studying – but over time his love for Mandarin pushed him in another direction, and he ended up spending a semester in Shanghai, China, during his senior year at Boston University.

He said the trip provided him with invaluable experience and taught him things that can’t be learned by reading books.

“I mean, we live in an age where it’s obviously very easy to access picture and video of different cultures, but I think the reality is that as people we have all these senses, and when you’re physically in the place, it takes on a different form,” he said.

Simply performing small daily tasks that we often take for granted can become eye-opening experiences that give us insight into what it means to be a global citizen, according to Kenny.

Things like going to the grocery store, for instance, can push us to grow as we are forced to examine how we are going to get there, Kenny said, especially if you are used to living in a city that doesn’t rely heavily on public transportation.

“If you’ve never had to walk to the grocery store – or if you are suddenly in a place where you don’t know how to cook any of the food or you may not speak the language, the small tasks individually don’t seem like much, but grouped together as a whole, I think it sort of forces people together in a good way,” he said.

Sometimes a healthy dose of self-examination that causes students to reconsider and re-evaluate their own cultural values is, in its own right, a distinctly important type of education, according to Kenny.

That’s why he encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities granted by the program and to travel abroad while they are still in college.

Most types of financial aid, such as Pell Grant, Bright Futures, Florida Prepaid or even loans, can be used to cover trip costs, according to Kenny.

The majority of the faculty-led trips, such as the Food and Travel Writing in France and Germany or the Energy for Sustainable Development in India, are all-inclusive with the cost – with a few exceptions such as airfare and personal spending.

A recent three-week Spanish language and culture program in Salamanca, Spain, was advertised as $3,325 — this includes the cost of tuition, which according to Kenny is initially charged to students’ accounts before later being waived once the program meets minimum enrollment. This is the case for all faculty-led trips.

Other upcoming summer trips include business classes in Germany, leadership ethics in Greece, Italy and England, and business in Europe that will take students across Munich, Amsterdam and London.

The average faculty-led trip usually averages somewhere between eight and 12 students, according to Kenny.
For a full list of study abroad options, visit the Education Abroad website. The applications, which can be found online at http://www.usfsp.edu/education-abroad/, can be filled out without any commitment in the early stages of the process – and students can contact Education Abroad at (727) 873-4270 to find out more information or set up an appointment to discuss options.

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Author: John