Annual Study Abroad Fair to be held at GV

Courtesy Photo / Padnos International Center

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Padnos International Center

Becky Spaulding

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the Padnos International Center will hold their annual Winter Study Abroad Fair, along with a new event – a Gelato Social. The fair is meant to “focus on GVSU Study Abroad programs and gives students the chance to meet program directors and past study abroad participants,” according to the PIC website.

The Gelato Social is a more laid-back affair, where students can meet Study Abroad alumni and hear first hand stories about their experiences abroad.

The fair is meant for students considering participating in programs during spring/summer 2013, fall 2013, or the 2013 academic year, said PIC Study Abroad Advisor Meaghann Myers-Smith.

“The application deadline is coming up February first … we intentionally hold this fair a couple weeks before the deadline so that students have the opportunity to think about it one more time.”

Students who attend the fair will be able to talk to past participants as well as faculty members who run the programs, Myers-Smith said. “So it gives them the opportunity to learn a little bit more if they need to in order to apply by Feb. 1. It’s an informational, open event.”

GVSU has about 30 faculty-led study-abroad programs, where students will travel with a group of 11 students and a faculty member, Myers-Smith said. These programs generally take place during the spring and summer and last from two to six weeks.

The fair will also highlight Grand Valley Partnership Programs, “which are programs that are not necessarily designed to be group oriented, but rather it gives our students the opportunity to attend 30-plus partner institutions that Grand Valley has all over the world – almost as a local student,” Myers-Smith said.

The Gelato Social will follow the fair, and is meant to encourage interaction among Study Abroad Alumni and possible future participants.

“The Gelato Social is something new that we’re trying out,” said Alissa Lane, outreach coordinator for the PIC. “The idea is that students will go to the Study Abroad Fair to get the more technical information and the details about application and scholarships, and then the gelato will be more of a social event.”

The atmosphere of the Gelato Social will be one of sharing, where students can meet up with past participants and hear their stories.

“After they get all the formal information, they can then go and talk to their peers who’ve been abroad, and can tell them what it’s really like,” Lane said.

Marvis Herring, a PIC Peer Advisor, is also a Study Abroad Alumni.

Herring traveled to Spain for a summer, and will be available for advising during the Study Abroad Fair.

Herring suggests students come into the fair with at least some idea of what program they are interested in.

“I think students should definitely come in with an open mind, but I think the main thing that helps us with advising is coming in with some idea,” Herring said. “Even though you have an open mind, you still have to have an idea of what you want to do when you’re abroad, or even where you want to go.”

Herring also recommends being prepared to spend some time discussing options.

“Come in with time and be patient, because talking to alumni and not just getting the flier and leaving will definitely help their experience,” Herring said.

There are common worries that Study Abroad advisors often help students overcome.

“I think in general people are fearful of anything that’s unknown,” Myers-Smith said. “We find that a lot of students that we talk to have not experienced much outside of this environment or their home environment.”

“We have people, including parents, who assume that going abroad is in some way a dangerous thing just because it’s a different place, and/or because there’s distance between them and their child or vice-versa,” she said. “People want to know in general, ‘Am I going to be safe abroad,’ and our answer to that is really that we can’t ever completely guarantee anybody’s safety or predict the future, but going abroad is no more dangerous than being here.”

The PIC gives students a pre-departure orientation in order to help them acclimate to their new environment, Myers-Smith said.

All of the staff and students who will be staffing the fair and the Gelato Social are Study Abroad Alumni, and can help students find a program that fits their personal needs, Myers-Smith said.

Another common worry is cost, Herring said.

Some students don’t know that “a lot of scholarship is out there and that financial aid applies to (study abroad),” Herring said. “A common concern is money right up front.”

Lane added that there are even some destinations that are equal to or even less than the cost of living and attending school at GVSU for a semester.

There will be staff available to discuss costs, scholarships and financial aid with students at the Study Abroad Fair.

Concerns can be alleviated simply by meeting with a PIC advisor, Myers-Smith said. “Guidance is guaranteed here (at GVSU).”

The fair is “a great opportunity to have access to personal conversations with PIC staff and past participants,” Myers-Smith said.

The PIC Study Abroad Fair will be held in the Henry Hall Atrium, Padnos Hall of Science from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and the Gelato Social will follow, starting at 2:00 p.m.

For more information, or to set up an advising appointment, visit, e-mail [email protected], or call 616-331-3898.

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