Study abroad fair offers answers for potential travelers

Duane Emery

For those Grand Valley State University students that find themselves with a bad case of wanderlust, the upcoming study abroad fair is an opportunity to learn about travel choices and meet people from all over the world.

“It’s like stepping into a new world when you go to the fair and can talk to people of all these different cultures,” said Megan Lendman, the study abroad peer advisor from the Padnos International Center.

The study abroad fair will be held Thursday, Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Grand River Room at the Kirkhof Center. There will also be a smaller advising day at the Pew Campus in the DeVos Center on Tuesday, Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for those who cannot make the fair in Allendale.

Lendman, who has studied abroad twice, said international travel and education is an invaluable experience every student should have. It opens students up to places, cultures and adventures they otherwise would not have had. Additionally, it can also open doors for career opportunities many would never consider, Lendman said.

“(Studying abroad) can be about that experience, but can also be a career builder,” she said, adding that several students who have studied abroad made connections that lead them to careers in other countries.

“People look at their job market as Michigan or the Midwest,” said Alissa Lane, the outreach coordinator at the Padnos International Center. “But they can learn that there may be opportunities all over the world.”

Lendman added that students should seize the opportunity while it is available.

“If you are thinking about doing (studying abroad), you should or you will regret it later,” Lendman said, adding that college is one of the best times to travel internationally as there are many resources to help students gather information and pay for the trip. The fair, she said, is one of the best opportunities to get informed to start planning for a trip.

“It’s such a different experience to talk to people who have been in the program, and international students to help you decide if a trip is a good fit for you,” Lendman said.

At the fair, students can get information about every study abroad program, both provided by GVSU and through other parties. Fair visitors can also learn about financial aid and scholarship opportunities, and can receive counseling on what places are beneficial for a given major.

“GVSU is nice in that it offers flexibility. You can even study through other universities,” Lane said, stating that GVSU has more than 700 participants each year. “That flexibility is the reason, I think, GVSU is ranked number five in the nation for study abroad participation by the Institute for International Education.”

While Spain, England and Ghana are very popular destinations for GVSU students, this flexibility means there are no limits.

“You can go anywhere in the world,” Lendman said.

In the past, students seeking a larger variety of locations have used non-GVSU options to travel to places like the Himalayas, Fiji and Morocco, to name a few.

Another goal of the study abroad fair is to help students realize how approachable international study can be.

“One of the misconceptions is you have to be bilingual, so students limit their options,” Lane said. “Unless you are studying a language, your classes will be in English.”