GVSU’s study abroad office to send students to 30 countries for winter semester

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Traffic flows on the Avenue Raymond Poincaré adjacent to the village of Èze in the south of France on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Traffic flows on the Avenue Raymond Poincaré adjacent to the village of Èze in the south of France on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Drew Schertzer

The world is a vast place to see and West Michigan is only a small corner of the world. Hundreds of students take advantage of Grand Valley State University’s study abroad program to see the rest of it. Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to live among other people and learn their culture. 853 students at GVSU participated in study abroad programs last year. They went to 60 different countries including Germany, Spain, Ghana and France.

“Students can step out of what they’ve known to see how things are on the other side,” said Alissa Lane, the outreach coordinator for GVSU’s Padnos International Center. “They meet different people that pray differently and look different. It opens your eyes up to a new perspective and students take that back with them.”

Lane said there are over 4,000 programs in every region of the world connected with other schools. These programs coordinate students visiting a country for anywhere from a few weeks to a few semesters. However, for many students, what’s holding them back isn’t interest, but money.

Lane said as a rule of thumb anything being used to pay for college at GVSU can be used to study abroad. This includes financial aid scholarships, and many programs at GVSU give scholarships to study abroad. These include scholarships through the International Center and 14 other GVSU programs designed to help students pay to go to other countries. Amber Sackett, a student and peer adviser at GVSU, said cost shouldn’t be the No. 1 factor holding students back.

“Most students don’t realize that some countries might fit their goals better than others, look outside the box,” Sackett said.

This winter semester at GVSU, around 181 students will be going to over 30 countries. All of these trips and experiences differ from one another.

“(Students) have a unique opportunity,” Lane said. “After college, most people don’t take more than a week long vacation.”

She said GVSU wants to help students travel abroad, and that they should.

“Employers want employees with people skills that are developed when students study abroad,” Lane said. “Maturity, flexibility, navigating a foreign environment, this is helpful no matter what field you study.”

Lane urged students to talk to an adviser if interested.

Interested students can seek out an adviser in Room 130 Lake Ontario Hall. There are also first-step information meetings that take place in the same room. Lane explained advisers who have studied abroad themselves can help plan out the entire schedule of students. Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 is the deadline for 2017 spring and summer study abroad programs. Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 is the deadline for 2018 winter programs.