Study abroad programs as varied as the students they serveSeptember 01, 2007
Is college life starting to feel a little ho-hum, seen-it-all-before, like you need a break, and, NOW?
Rowan University students who are interested in foreign exchange can choose from among more than 200 programs in more than 50 countries.
Better still, they can use financial aid awards to help pay for the experience even if loans, grants and other assistance have yet to be disbursed.
"All financial aid can apply," said Dr. Edward C. Smith III, interim director of the International Center in Robinson Hall, a clearinghouse for information about all of the programs available to Rowan students.
Smith, an associate professor of foreign languages within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also serves as executive director of the New Jersey State Consortium for International Studies. The consortium is a partnership between eight Garden State colleges and universities that guarantees payment to overseas programs even if award disbursements are still pending.
In addition to standard financial aid programs there are special grants and loans available for overseas study including a $5,000 scholarship through the U.S. Department of State, Fulbright Scholarships and special awards geared toward destinations like Russia and Scotland, Smith said.
Students interested in foreign exchange must carry a GPA of at least 2.5 and have at least 30 completed credits.
"The wonderful thing about these programs is students don't lose time during their college career and they have a life-transforming experience," Smith said. "We guarantee it."
Not your father's exchange program
Smith, a foreign exchange student himself as an undergrad, said there are far greater options for overseas study today than, say, 20 years ago. But the programs also tend to be briefer. While earlier generations of exchange students typically lived overseas for their entire junior year, today's programs usually last for just one semester, a summer or less.
In addition, the programs tend to be more specialized, designed around students' interests and major. Those who enroll in a full semester program typically earn 15 to 18 credits toward graduation while students who travel abroad in the summer earn six to 12 credits.
"We also have short-term, faculty-led courses abroad," Smith said. "They usually last ten days to two weeks and students can earn up to three credits."
Smith said the consortium, which was founded in the 1960s, provides students access to a far greater number of programs than individual schools could offer. On average it helps some 400 New Jersey students study abroad each year, about 100 of them from Rowan.
Recent Rowan students have traveled to Italy, Australia, Spain, England, Germany, Scotland, South Africa, Japan, Ireland, Egypt, Russia, Argentina, Mexico, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Others have participated in special programs like SEA Semester ? a tall-ship sailing experience ? and Semester at Sea, in which students travel and earn credits aboard an ocean liner.
Cathy Jaworski, 21, an English/secondary education major, said spending the fall semester of her junior year in Scotland helped her develop a worldview that will be indispensable as a teacher. Jaworski spent the fall 2006 semester at the University of Dundee, took in the local color and swam in Loch Ness.
"People want to know all about America but it's not like you might think," she said. "They get around to politics but the first thing they want to know is if high schools in America are like they are in the movies."
Jaworski found the study itself, especially a course in German, to be a welcome challenge and said the overall experience will be an excellent bridge to life beyond college. "It's one thing to travel in another country but to live in one is something else entirely," she said. "When problems come up there's no safety net so you just learn to deal with them. You come back a whole lot more mature."
Profs Down Under
Spending the spring 2005 semester in Australia, senior Tony Gebely experienced aboriginal cultures and visited Thailand.
Gebely, a computer science major, said interacting with such diverse cultures taught him not only about others but about himself.
"To immerse yourself in another culture is simply an experience you can't get in a classroom," said Gebely, 24. "I didn't know the languages at all but it was the best experience I could have had."
Gebely said he got so much out of the semester abroad that he plans on taking a full year after graduation to travel throughout Southeast Asia.
"Ultimately it will make me more marketable," he said. "I'll have a better worldview than most people. If a company was willing to send someone abroad, having this experience I might be the one to go."
In addition to the many programs available to students through the consortium, Rowan University maintains direct bilateral exchange agreements with a number of top-tier colleges and universities around the world including Univesidad San Francisco de Quito (the Galapagos Islands), East China University (Shanghai) and the University of Osnabruck (Germany).
For information about these or dozens of other opportunities, visit the International Center in 117 Robinson, tour its Web site or call 856-256-4500 ext. 3105.