By Alexandra Raskin
At the College’s spring Study Abroad Fair, held on Feb. 7 in the Brower Student Center, prospective travellers explored a wide array of programs, each promising to take students outside both their comfort zones and the U.S.
From plowing fields with oxen in Ecuador to interning in London, the College and its partner programs, which include the Foundation for International Education, Undergraduate Program for Central European Studies, International Studies Abroad, European Study Center and a number of other universities, have tailored study abroad experiences to fit the wants and needs of each student.
The fair, hosted by the College’s Center for Global Engagement, offered paths centered on academics, internships, research opportunities, service learning and volunteer work. Certain trips were advertised based upon language immersion, others on sustainability practices or international student teaching.
The College has connections with over 150 cities worldwide, according to the Center for Global Engagement’s website.
Programs include shorter trips during summer and winter terms, as well as options lasting an entire semester or academic year. While prices vary, students can often use their existing scholarships and financial aid packages to contribute to the cost of their trips. Details about additional scholarships are also available on the Center for Global Engagement website.
Freshman history major Kathy Dobrow was interested in national programs with a focus on U.S. history, especially the faculty-led American South program. Dobrow also saw value in various international programs.
“It might give you some kind of different experience that you don’t get in the classroom here,” Dobrow said.
Jennifer Margherito, the College’s study abroad adviser, emphasized the impact studying abroad can have on students.
“Campus is a wonderful, welcoming environment, but sometimes you need that semester away to give perspective to your life here, as well as to gain new perspective on a culture abroad,” Margherito said.
Interested students were able to connect with different professors, Center for Global Engagement staff and other representatives from assorted programs and universities.
Several students who already completed study abroad trips were stationed at the tables, eager to share their stories.
Matthew Walck, a junior history and international studies double major, spent the past fall semester in Heidelberg, Germany. He felt his time abroad fostered significant personal growth.
“I was surprised about how uncomfortable I was in the beginning, but I think that’s one of the most important things,” Walck said. “Getting over that, I feel like I can just get thrown into any situation now.”
Karina Pedraza, a junior psychology and marketing double major, travelled to Heidelberg with Walck. Their time abroad led to them picking up bits of the German language, learning how to navigate public transportation and getting to know the locals.
“Most people have a tendency to fall into routine, and it’s easy to get comfortable with your surroundings, but almost too comfortable, to a point where you don’t really expand yourself,” Pedraza said.
Kaelyn DiGiamarino, a senior marketing major, felt that spending a semester at Charles University in Prague had a tremendous impact on her.
“I felt completely different when I came back,” DiGiamarino said. “Your perspective on yourself and the world changes. I feel a lot more confident and outgoing.”
The past experiences of students who had studied abroad gave other students a better idea of the different opportunities available to them.
Margherito is a big supporter of the College’s study abroad program, and often gives presentations on studying abroad to prospective students and their parents. During the fair, she spoke highly of the programs, and felt that each student should try to participate before graduating.
“I think study abroad is a great opportunity, and I think there’s not a one-size-fits-all for study abroad,” Margherito said. “You can have an impactful experience on a two to three week faculty-led program as much as you can have on a semester abroad –– whatever fits into your academic program is something that’s going to add value to your academic experience here at TCNJ.”