Short Stints Abroad
By Jennifer LeClaire
September 03, 2008
In a perfect world you’d study in London, Paris – or maybe even Brazil – next semester. But your double major, extracurricular activities and half-empty bank account dictate otherwise.
What’s a would-be globetrotter to do? Don’t despair. There are innovative programs designed just for students like you with little time, little budget and lots of dreams.
BUNAC offers students work/travel programs to Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, as well as a volunteer program in South Africa. The length of the programs varies from two months to one year. The goal is to give students an opportunity to work and travel overseas.
“We provide students with resources before they leave to help them find a job and a place to live,” says BUNAC’s U.S. programs promotions coordinator Laura Wilson, who went on two trips as a student before joining the staff. “We encourage students to look for a job the same way they would in the United States – online, through newspapers and help wanted signs. It’s not as difficult as you might imagine.”
BUNAC provides continuing support for traveling students, including emergency services and organized social activities. Prices range from $250 for the Canada trip to $595 for the Australia journey. Britain is the most popular at $290. That price covers the visa processing fees and support, but the plane ticket is on you.
For students who can’t take an eight-week trip, some campuses organize week-long service trips to Latin American and Caribbean countries. Many service organizations sponsor affordable trips for students to spend their breaks grappling with important issues like racism, poverty and hunger. These trips range in cost from $40 to $1,000.
“Our students who traveled to Honduras assisted a medical mission team,” says Daniel Cherry, spring break coordinator at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. “Overnight accommodations for the students varied depending on location and facilities. Some students stayed with families from the churches, some slept in the church building, while those who travel to Mexico will stay in a hotel.”
If it’s an academic experience you seek, most colleges and universities offer study abroad programs. Michigan State University has several short trips, like its Rainforest and Reality Spring Break in Nicaragua. Arcadia University in suburban Philadelphia offers short academic courses highlighted by a two-week trip to the country studied. And Baltimore’s Goucher College offers three-week intensive courses abroad.
“Our students are not only learning subject matter, they are also learning foreign languages,” says Mary Allen, Goucher’s associate director of international studies. “They are interacting with the culture and gaining cross-cultural skills, which brings them confidence.”
While study abroad programs are conveniently scheduled during spring, winter and summer breaks, they are typically much more expensive – up to $3,000 – but scholarships and student loans make it doable.
The Institute of International Education offers a comprehensive online search engine for study abroad programs. Students can search by country, language, subject and other criteria to find short- and long-term study abroad opportunities.
“Contact your study abroad office for information and plan early,” Allen suggests. “Then have an open mind and a sense of adventure, understanding that things are different abroad than they are on your college campus.”