GV students prepare for study abroad financially, physically, mentally

Sarah Hillenbrand

As many students at Grand Valley State University are beginning to count down the days until their study abroad journey next semester, various resource centers at the university are working to ensure the students are prepared financially, mentally and physically for their trip.

GVSU sends 700-800 students abroad every year, and the travellers receive a lot of assistance from the Padnos International Center and the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships, both offices that work with students who are worried about financial backing for the trip.

Get funding

The Office of Fellowships help students through the process of applying for nationally competitive awards, including study abroad scholarships.

“The more time a student has to prepare (for study abroad), the better off they’re going to be,” said Amanda Cuevas, director of the office.

Cuevas said there’s whole host of other resources for interested students to utilize on campus.

“Go and talk to Padnos International Center, go into Financial Aid, come see us in the fellowships office and explore your options,” Cuevas said. “There are a lot of wonderful study abroad opportunities that are affordable.”

The financial aspect isn’t the only worry for students preparing to embark on their study abroad.

Ensure a safe trip

Meaghann Myers-Smith, a study abroad adviser in the Padnos International Center, said one necessity for all students studying abroad is to have accident and sickness insurance, but if their insurance won’t cover it, they can purchase an ISIC card in Student Services. Vaccinations and immunizations are also required depending on where a student is planning to travel.

On Nov. 1, Myers-Smith hosted a study abroad session in the Kirkhof Center where she talked about everything a student needs to do to be able to study abroad, including getting a passport.

“When we talk about costs of a program, we’re talking about total projected cost,” Myers-Smith said. “We’re talking about what it takes for a student to participate in a study abroad program. It means we’re considering things like passport, airfare, tuition costs, food, housing, all of those things that are essential to a person going abroad.”

Marvis Herring, a senior who studied aboard in Grenada, Spain for three and a half months in the summer, said he advises students looking to go abroad to prepare by doing research into the programs.

Do your research

“Researching programs and researching funding sources definitely helps as well as starting early,” Herring said. “The earlier you start, the more you figure out how study abroad works. The starting early and research go hand in hand.”

The time he spent researching was worth the experience he got in the end.

“Being in Spain made me more diverse and open-minded,” he said. “It made me think that I could live or work abroad, and it gave me friendships, networking opportunities and professional experience. It also gave me experience as a person. For example, I did homework and studying there much differently than I do here.”

Enrich your mind

Meyers-Smith said there are a lot of valuable experiences gained from studying abroad that aid students after college.

“This is a high-impact experience that really allows an incredible amount of growth on a personal, professional and academic level,” she said. “They have different connections with people all over the world. Sometimes those are professional connections that turn into job opportunities long-term for these individuals.”

Going to another country also gives students access to resources and classes that are not available here, she said. Students have the opportunity to do internships or have field experience abroad.
“This offers its own unique set of advantages for individuals to be able to have those opportunities through study abroad,” she said.

But the opportunity for personal growth is an advantage that may overshadow all others.
“Students come back a lot of times with a clearer picture on who they are and what opportunities they have outside of Michigan or even the United States upon graduation,” Myers-Smith said.

Students who are applying to study abroad programs must go through the OASIS applications, which also requires recommendations that must be submitted before the application is accepted. The next major deadline for study abroad is in February.

“I want students to dream big,” Cuevas said. “Study abroad is an amazing, life-changing experience. It can open up incredible doors into the future.”
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