Study Abroad Program Can Change Your Life

There is no better way to spend your summer or next school year if you are looking for adventure, culture, and academic credits than by traveling overseas for a study abroad program. The possibilities are vast as to where, what, when, and how you can take advantage of studying your major in another country. WCU offers summer session programs, fall or spring semester programs, or year long programs for studying abroad to both undergraduate and graduate students through the International Programs and Services Department (IPS). No need to feel like study abroad is a far fetched possibility for you. Financial aid, federal loans, scholarships and grants can all be applied towards study abroad programs. Most programs are equivalent to the cost of the same amount of time at WCU. If WCU is accessible to you, so is the world for you to discover. Student, Justin Corbin majoring in Biology, has traveled abroad twice since coming to WCU. “IPS does a fantastic job of planning and helping you prepare for whatever kind of experience you want to have – you just have to take initiative. Also, some students may think that study abroad is too expensive – this is not true. My family couldn’t help me financially if they wanted to and I was able, with the help of WCU’s IPS, to go abroad twice,” said Corbin. Study abroad can be a valuable experience in that you will earn credits that transfer back to WCU towards your major or general electives. You will not just be earning foreign language credits but it is possible to study almost anything you can imagine. Do not think that because you do not know a foreign language that you can not travel abroad. For those who have no foreign language experience there are various English speaking countries WCU is aligned with such as England and Australia. Also, some countries such as Czech Republic, Latvia, Denmark, Sweden, Korea, Thailand and China offer English programs to accommodate those who do not speak the native language. Another advantage of studying abroad is the edge it gives you when applying for graduate school or when you enter the job market. Getting into the graduate school of your choice can put you up against some intense competitors. A study abroad program on your transcript can increase your chance of getting accepted to the school of your choice. The study abroad experience on your resume can also catch the eye of potential employers and possibly help you get job offers in the future. There are several different ways one could study abroad according to IPS. The University of North Carolina Exchange Program (UNCEP) consortium was established by the UNC Board of Governors in 1997 as the official system-wide student exchange program. This program offers students at any of the 16 UNC campuses the opportunity to participate in affordable, high-quality, semester or year-long study abroad programs. Overseas opportunities are currently available in 9 countries. Another program, The International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), is a one-for-one exchange between universities in the United States and counterparts in 37 countries worldwide. Students who choose ISEP pay tuition, fees, room and board to WCU and receive equivalent benefits at the host university abroad. Students enroll in transferable courses and take exams with regularly enrolled students at the host university. Western its self has an exchange program through partnerships with universities in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, China, Japan, South Korea, Bolivia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia for students in most majors. Also, if you can not find a program that suits you, there is the option of applying directly to a foreign institution. WCU’s IPS can assist you with this process. In order to participate in a study abroad program you have to have a 2.75 GPA, and not be a freshman. You must choose an appropriate study abroad location, make an appointment with the IPS Director, complete required paperwork, and attend a mandatory orientation. During the 2004-2005 school year Corbin traveled to Lunds Universitetet in Lund, Sweden as part of the UNCEP. Later in the summer of 2006 he traveled to Kenya to work as a medical volunteer in a rural clinic. He used IPS and WCU’s Career Services office for financial aid and to earn internship credit hours while he was in Kenya. Recalling his experiences in two different countries bring back good and bad memories for Corbin. He can remember the sheer beauty of Sweden. “I was taken back by how utterly beautiful the Swedish countryside is. Sweden is a country the size of California with a population of only 8 million – meaning there is plenty of room to explore. I bought a bike (all students ride bikes to school) and spent many afternoons touring the hills and vales of the Skane region. It was awesome,” said Corbin. Corbin can also remember a moment in Kenya that has forever changed him as a person. “I was not prepared to experience the full effect of the AIDS epidemic, which has orphaned more than 1 million children in Kenya. On one particular day, for example, I stood by the bed of young girl as she coughed up blood, wincing in pain as she cried out to us for help that would not come. It is these kinds of experiences that shatter your whole “Americanized” view of the world. This experience changed my life and, for that reason, I have decided to return to Kenya this summer to continue volunteering,” said Corbin. Having such a tremendous impact on his life, and seeing how study abroad programs can change someone for the better and give them a competitive edge in the future, Corbin has nothing but positive things to say about WCU’s study abroad program. “I cannot stress enough the value of a study abroad experience. Not only does it broaden your mind and world perspective, it also allows you to remove yourself from your own comfort zone and gives you new insight into who you are as a person.”