Study abroad fair encourages students to travel

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - The interior of the village of Èze in southern France, pictured on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – The interior of the village of Èze in southern France, pictured on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Drew Schertzer

Studying abroad is a way to explore other countries while still working with education. Whether they go to Europe, Africa or Asia, students have the option to seek out new cultures.

The annual Study Abroad Fair, put on by the Padnos International Center (PIC), gave Grand Valley State University students all the information they needed to get started. The fair took place Tuesday, Jan. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in GVSU’s Henry Hall Atrium.

There, hundreds of interested students flocked to tables set up by program directors to learn about an array of programs in different countries. The deadline to apply for study abroad for the spring, summer, fall and academic year 2017 is Wednesday, Feb. 1.

“Just to get the exposure and cultural immersion, communication and culture is a reason it’s important to study abroad,” said Peter Zhang, a GVSU professor and faculty member for the London trip.

Zhang said for his specific program, he and his students will visit London in July for about a month. He said it would be a great way for students to take in the different culture and a way to forget about social media and other distractions.

“(London) has the same language but with a different twist,” Zhang said. “There’s something there that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

For Zhang, London is a wonderful place to study abroad, but for other people, like GVSU student Krystyna Burchart, things aren’t as set in stone.

“I’d like to travel and see a different part of the world, but it’s a big commitment, and it also seems expensive,” Burchart said.

For students who want to study abroad, there are ways to help pay for the trip. Possible methods include financial aid, scholarships or grants. Many students have also taken to crowdfunding and created a GoFundMe to collect money from friends and family. Zhang suggested speaking to the GVSU Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships or to a program director to help try to cut costs down.

Zhang said the culture shock is something to be aware of when studying abroad. He said students often don’t realize that once they land in the United Kingdom, there is a new set of laws. The drinking age is 18 in the U.K., which often surprises students visiting the country when they see younger people drinking. Zhang suggests always staying alert while in another country to ensure one’s safety.

Students studying abroad have the option to fill major requirements, minor requirements, electives and internship requirements. Study abroad walk-in advising hours at the PIC take place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Lake Ontario Hall, room 130. Also, there are first-step meetings every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and every Friday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the same location.

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