GV prepares students to study abroad


GVL | Bri Conway

Melia Williams, Staff Writer

Many universities offer study abroad opportunities for students to pursue their studies in a foreign country. The prospect of traveling can be intimidating to students with concerns of being able to afford the program or feeling comfortable across the world.

Grand Valley State University has various resources for students with these worries to ensure the process for those participating goes as smoothly as possible.

“There’s incredible personal growth (and) exploration of a new culture that really changes a person,” said Becca Morrissey, Director of Study Abroad and International Partnerships. 

Students that have participated feel that it became an integral part of their educational experience.  

“I think students should study abroad just to broaden their horizons and learn about different cultures, people and groups,” said Caitlin Dahlin, a senior who studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina this past summer. “You’ll get the opportunity to see the world.”

When studying abroad comes to mind one of the first questions students may have is how to afford it. 

“I think that, if I can say anything to people who are thinking of studying abroad, it’s that it’s not as expensive as you think it will be,” Dahlin said. “People in the community are really willing to give money towards people who want to experience cross-culturally.”

In the same way that students can be supported with financial aid, grants and scholarships to attend GVSU, they can receive financial support to study in a different country.

“So if (students) are normally receiving financial aid, most of the aid that they would receive on campus can be used toward Study Abroad,” Morrissey said. 

Another concern for students is the language barrier. However, Georgia Barber, a junior that studied abroad in Barranquilla, Columbia this past summer, said this doesn’t have to be the case. 

“You don’t have to speak the language,” Barber said. “The program I went to gave students the opportunity to take classes in English, like in my case with Colombian students who were learning English or already knew it.”

For those whose top concern is that of safety, GVSU has resources in place to combat this.

“Most programs will give you a safety packet,” Barber said. “Definitely read it thoroughly and just listen to what it says.”

Barber said that when reflecting on her time abroad, the education she received and experiences she had made taking the risk worth it. 

“I can speak more fluently,” Barber said. “I can think in Spanish now, but I also gained a lot of international friends and family because I lived with a Colombian family.”

Dahlin said one of the things she learned outside of her GVSU education was the values of those in Argentina.

“I gained a different perspective on their values of life as they value relationships a lot,” Dahlin said. “I was able to learn to value what they value and bring that back and show other people.”

For students interested in GVSU’s study abroad program, Morissey said they offer weekly meetings to help them prepare for the experience.

“In our office every week, we have ‘first step meetings,’ where we do presentations on different program types and how to start researching programs that would be of interest,” Morrissey said.

These meetings take place every Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. in Lake Ontario Hall. GVSU has an open Study Abroad program that offers a number of different countries to choose from while being well equipped to send students abroad. 

All of this can begin as early as the summer after a student’s freshman year.  

“Plan early,” Morrissey said. “We recommend students start planning a minimum of a year before they want to go. That way they can align their academic needs with the program that they want to go on.”

For more information on the study abroad program, there is a fair taking place Tuesday, Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Grand River Room of Kirkhof Center.