UConn holds Study Abroad Fair
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 01:09
The Rome Commons Ballroom filled with hundreds of lively students eager to explore the world of cross-cultural academia, as the University of Connecticut held its biannual Study Abroad Fair yesterday afternoon.
The fair, which was held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., showcased over 300 different programs available to students. The most popular programs were related to the School of Business. UC in Florence and UC in London appeared to be the event’s most visited tables, with additional high interest in South African and French programs.
With faculty-led programs, student exchange, direct foreign enrollment programs and third-party providers to choose from, there is ample opportunity for students to learn and travel. Such was the attitude of many excited students, who attended the fair in search of the program best-suited to their interests.
Students ranged from freshman to seniors, with some just beginning their search and others with their hearts set on specific programs.
“I just want to experience new things. I feel like it’s something I have to do before I graduate,” said Marissa Sounanthanam, a 5th-semester sociology major. Sounanthanam, whose interest in her ancestry has lead her to search for a program in Asia, feels that studying abroad will be an excellent way to satisfy her interest in travel while fulfilling basic general education requirements.
Carolyn Pennington, a 5th-semester communications and psychology major, is, “just interested in being outside of the United States.”
“I’m thinking Florence, Italy,” she said. “I have a lot of family out there.” With 27 cousins she has yet to meet, Pennington hopes that studying abroad will allow her to “kill two birds with one stone.”
Pennington and Sounanthanam are just two examples of a large portion of students with a prior connection to the land they travel to, whether it be through family relations and ancestry, or previous knowledge of a language.
“Studying abroad is the best decision I’ve made in college,” said Michael Piersall, a 5th-semester political science major. Piersall discussed his experience in London, where he was part of a 14-week global citizenship program.
“I took three classes that met once a week for only three hours,” he said. “This allowed me to explore the city and travel a lot.”
Piersall also participated in an internship that sought to raise wages for leading United Kingdom-based grocery retailer Tesco, for which he received three credits. He plans to travel back to London for graduate school following his undergraduate studies at UConn.
Professors and the Study Abroad staff were eager to assist students in their program search. “There’s a pretty good turnout this year,” said Heather Sinclair, program assistant at UConn Study Abroad, as she wove through the crowd, stopping to ensure each table was prepared for the event.
Summer Spaderna, assistant director at Study Abroad, also noticed an increase in attendance. “The turnout is good,’ she said, “better than it has been for so early on in the semester. More and more students are choosing to study abroad. It’s exciting.”
Despite difficult financial ties, the Study Abroad program continues to thrive. “There are scholarships available, and with the exchange programs especially,” said Spaderna. “Students still pay their regular UConn tuition, but the room and board is often much cheaper than you would expect.”
Yet some program fees can appear daunting for students and parents. Estimated costs for the UC in London program exceed $16,000 for the semester. Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available for those who seek it, but with limitations.
Many government scholarships are geared towards programs in countries where future United States relations are key. Elizabeth Mahan, interim executive director of the Office of Global Affairs at UConn, says the U.S. is looking to invest in educational opportunities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
“Most students want to study in Europe and Australia,” Mahan said, “but there are few government scholarships for those programs. The array of study abroad programs here at UConn has expanded. We want to make students aware of other ideas and opportunities.”
Despite increased costs of traveling abroad, UConn is optimistic about the experience. “Just do it,” said Spaderna. “When else will you have such a great opportunity?”
The Spring Study Abroad Fair will be held in February, with exact dates to be determined. For more information on studying abroad, students may attend Study Abroad 101 information sessions, Mondays and Wednesdays until the first application deadline from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Center for Undergraduate Education. The Study Abroad office is located in CUE 117 and is open Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To find application deadlines and additional information, go to the UConn Study Abroad website (studyabroad.uconn.edu).