Many college students and faculty are familiar with the concept of studying abroad. To most, it may just seem as a way to travel to a different country without the need to drop out of college. However, learning abroad is more than what some might consider simply a vacation. According to SUU’s Office of Learning Abroad, it is a way to “foster empathy, cultural and global understanding, experiential learning and personal enrichment in all of the university’s students, faculty, and staff.”
Learning abroad gives students the chance to not only learn about different parts of the world but also to be fully immersed in them. Students and faculty experience unique wonders of the world, so to speak, environmentally and historically, by being there in person.
Jaycee Carter, a social sciences major who works at the Office of Learning Abroad, shared her experience of her first study abroad trip: a short-term anthropology visit to Guatemala.
“We hiked to the top of a volcano, and at the top, we roasted marshmallows over the lava,” Carter said. “That was life-changing, just so cool, so much fun!”
From a more academic standpoint, students who study abroad learn about a variety of topics taught at their own local universities which, due to the change of location and culture, are presented in a way that varies from what is common back at home.
“It opened me up to different perspectives,” said Jessica Gilchrist, a political science major who did a semester exchange in London. “It was definitely a different learning environment than it is here at SUU.”
Additionally, studying abroad provides students with the privilege of meeting, serving and learning from new people. This can create meaningful connections and, in some cases, long-lasting relationships.
“That’s how I met a lot of my friends,” Gilchrist said. “They were from all over the U.S., but at the end of the day, we were all in London, and we bonded over that.”
The positive impact learning abroad leaves on students is present even after returning home. For many students, they develop a new understanding and appreciation toward their field of study. For others like Carter, it inspires them to learn something new altogether.
“My major before I left wasn’t anthropology at all; I just went because I wanted to go to Guatemala,” she said. “But then I just loved it so much I ended up switching my major to social sciences. It changed my whole career path.”
What’s more, studying abroad can help students after they complete their undergraduate program and as they search for a higher education or career. “It makes you stand out on resumes for post-graduation and even getting into graduate school,” Carter explained. “It’s a huge asset.”
The changes in a student’s life after a learning abroad trip go beyond academics. One Forbes study shows that those who learn abroad tend to be more empathetic and service-oriented, leaving a positive impact on their local communities.
“It made me have a bigger appreciation for those around me,” said Gilchrist.
Studying abroad, in many ways, helps students on their way to becoming their best selves. Carter, reflecting on the students that the Office of Learning Abroad and she have aided with their own experiences, said, “it’s almost magical. Their confidence goes up; they’re far more engaged.”
“At first it can be really intimidating,” Gilchrist shared. “But being in a new country and a new culture is so exciting and so much fun, and I loved it!”
Learn more about study abroad programs at SUU:
Southern Utah University provides a variety of study abroad programs, each with different opportunities and experiences:
- Short term programs usually take place during the summer for one to two weeks or over a holiday break. Prices vary per trip but include travel within the trip’s area, dining and lodging. Flights are often on the student to buy, though scholarships for such expenses are available through the Office of Learning Abroad. These trips are led by members of the university’s faculty, and while they are usually focused on a certain field or fields of study, any student, regardless of major, is invited to attend. Up to six academic credits can be earned on these trips.
- Semester or Year Exchanges
- Semester or year exchanges are around the same length as a typical SUU semester or academic year. SUU’s tuition and financial aid is applicable, with students only needing to pay extra for flights and rent, which varies by location. SUU has partnered with over 60 universities from around the world for this exchange option.
- National Student Exchange
- The National Student Exchange has many similarities as the semester/year exchanges, including expenses and applicable financial aid. Instead of traveling to a country outside of the country, the NSE allows students to stay in one of the over 200 schools within the United States, United States territories or Canada.
Students or faculty who wish to learn more about studying abroad and the options available through SUU are invited to visit the Office of Learning Abroad website at suu.edu/studyabroad. They may also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their office in the Sharwan Smith Student Center International Affairs Office, or ST 169.
Story by Andrea Rodgers
Photos courtesy of Jaycee Carter, Jessica Gilchrist and the Office of Learning Abroad
This article was originally published in the April 2023 edition of the University Journal. Pick up a free copy at any of the stands on SUU campus.