Padnos International Center hosts Greek Life study abroad panel


Courtesy / Padnos International Center

Olivia Fellows, Editorial Intern

Traveling and studying abroad can be one of the most beneficial and exciting experiences for a college student, and at Grand Valley State University there are over 4,000 study abroad programs that help students connect with resources and programs to plan their travels. On Jan. 25, the Padnos International Center (PIC) hosted a panel that included students who studied abroad while involved in Greek life, who answered questions and shared their experiences.

Last year, 782 students from GVUS studied abroad in over 30 countries. GVSU has numerous program locations in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America. The PIC works with GVSU organizations and communities greek life to create personalized travel plans with students who still want to maintain their status in a fraternity or sorority while studying abroad. The event panel included five Greek Life students who studied abroad both during and outside of the school year.

Angela Harris, Assistant Study Abroad Outreach Coordinator for the PIC, said that events like the Greek Life panel help students become aware of more opportunities on campus, and lets them know that they can study abroad even if they are in other organizations on campus.

“We wanted to reach out to the greek organizations and encourage their members to consider studying abroad because a lot of Greek Life students don’t realize they have this opportunity,” Harris said, “To hear about experiences from students who are in Greek Life helps other students see that there is the possibility of studying abroad even with busy sorority or fraternity schedules and dues.”

The cost of programs can be a deterrent for some students who are considering studying abroad during college. Students typically pay for study abroad through a combination of financial aid, scholarship, grants and personal funds. The PIC offers numerous scholarships like the Barbara H. Padnos scholarship which provides $5,000-$15,000 of funding for year-long study abroad program, or university scholarships like the Cultural Engagement Study Abroad Scholarship, which helps fund study abroad opportunities for students who want to learn and experience new cultures. GVSU also allows any financial aid that a student receives to be applied to a study abroad program.

Connor Cavallaro, a GVSU senior and panelist representing Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at the event, said that his experience studying abroad in Italy was priceless, and he considers traveling while in college to be a worthwhile experience for anyone looking to broaden their horizons, especially if they are in Greek life.

“It’s an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and experience different cultures and things you aren’t used to or wouldn’t normally do,” Cavallaro said. “But it’s also an opportunity to grow and bring back those experiences to your Greek chapter and maybe encourage your brothers or sisters to do the same.”

GVSU has many options for students who want to decide when they want to study abroad. The university provides programs during both semesters, as well as faculty-led alternative breaks and summer programs that students can apply to. Students participating in a faculty-led program earn a grade and courses appear on their GVSU transcript on completion of their program, just as it would if they were taking a course on the GVSU campus.

Harris said that the best way to get started with looking into programs is to visit the PIC’s website which lists all of the programs and options available, both GVSU-sponsored and others. Harris said she encourages students to look into studying abroad, as the benefits of experiencing another culture can far outweigh the cost of getting there.

“Traveling in college broadens a student’s horizons and exposes you to a totally different world,” Harris said. “It can help you find your passions, inspiration, and help make the path for what you want to do a lot clearer. Taking advantage of opportunities like studying abroad in college can be the highlight of your time in higher education, and cost shouldn’t be something that scares students away.”