The study abroad debate: Is it worth it?
Traveling to another country to experience a different way of living sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime to most small town college students, but the funds and time expended in the process have some students wondering if studying abroad is worth it.
There are differing opinions about whether taking the time to become more worldly while also gaining college credit in another country is worth abandoning one's current studies and professional aspirations – especially when finances enter the picture.
“In the choice between being in more debt for a few credits for studying abroad or taking classes at a community college and working, I’d choose the latter,” Jackson sophomore Victoria Saylor said. “Today, it’s not attainable for a student who is paying for their own school to spend more money than they have to.”
Grand Haven senior and Study Abroad Peer Adviser Brittany Hild said cost and time commitment are the biggest factors students consider when making a decision about study abroad. Though these are common concerns, Hild said she advises students to find the program that will best fit their individual needs.
“There are many loans and scholarships offered through a student’s specific college and department for whatever they want to study,” she said. “We push studying abroad for freshmen the most, but if you pick the right program that fits with your major and is at the right time, you will get the credits and graduate on time.”
Central Michigan University’s Study Abroad Program caters to a growing number of students each year, all with a different list of financial and program requirements.
Director of Study Abroad Dianne De Salvo encourages all students to apply regardless of their financial situation.
“Everyone can study abroad, including those with high financial needs,” De Salvo said. “Costs can be very similar to what a semester at CMU would look like. You get to keep your financial aid and many scholarships are only available to students studying abroad.”
According to Assistant Director of Career Services Erik Simon, study abroad programs offer many benefits but they might not match the personal goals of some students.
“It greatly depends on the individual and their specific goals,” Simon said. “If you’re someone who wants to work overseas, then the answer is yes, but if you want to work somewhere local, it might be in your best interest to be here and get ahead that way.”
Finding a place to travel that matches a student's field of study or interest has also been a challenge for some.
“I would love to study abroad, but with a psychology major, it’s hard to find somewhere that makes sense,” Chesterfield junior Danielle Cywka said. “For certain majors, it could be really beneficial, but I would end up taking random credits and being more behind than I already am.”
Students who have studied abroad are confident that their experiences have pushed them ahead of their peers in academic, professional and even personal ways.
“The majority of people only learn about things through a book, but actually experiencing it is a whole different ballpark,” Auburn Hills junior Courtney Williams said. “Putting my experience in Paris on an application will automatically give me a one-up on someone who doesn’t have that credential and will be an instant conversation starter in an interview.”
For students like Williams, the experience of studying abroad was so valuable that it cannot be compared to classroom learning.
“I became more worldly in so many ways that couldn’t possibly be experienced by someone who hasn’t yet been abroad,” South Lyon senior Kelsey Fernandez said. “I also discovered that London is my one true love and am now making strides to move there.”