The study abroad fair took place in the Jack B. Kelly (JBK) Commons on Sept. 18. The fair was put on by the Office of Study Abroad in order to promote all new faculty-led programs for May and the summer of 2020, exchange programs to Ireland and Japan, and programs by third-party study abroad providers.
Each booth sported magazines, booklets, guides and raffles; all either directing the students to educational explorations of distant countries, or ways to get there financially. Rows of pamphlet-adorned tables were manned by advocates eager to disperse their countless lists of opportunities and voyages. Past study abroad participants shared their experiences.
“Being immersed in the language really helps me to grasp a better understanding and have more confidence in speaking Spanish, because it is my second language. For me it was like going home,” said Janet Nabors, English major. “You know, you stay with a family that you have never met before, but they’re so loving and welcoming that it felt like I was going to visit family that I just hadn’t seen in a long time… There were adventures every single day… Seeing ruins and museums and monasteries, and just learning things I would never learn here.”
Experiences like this are not uncommon occurrences. The multitude of students studying abroad leave their host countries with a different perspective.
“I’m happy to say that probably 99% of the students who study abroad come back wanting to do it again, because it was such a positive experience,” Carolina Galloway, director of the Study Abroad Office, said. “For the other one percent, I’m not going to say it was a negative thing… Their perspective changes a little—they appreciate home more… Traveling really benefits their life in such a different way… Not only professionally, because this is going to look really good on your resume, but personally… Their cultural sensitivity develops.”
In addition to giving students experiences that may influence their future careers and social perspective, studying abroad can also help students give back to communities that host them.
“At the end of our trip [to Lima and Cusco, Peru] we spent a couple days… helping redo a school in order to increase the amount of students who could attend,” Hector Rivero-Figueroa, an engineering major, said. “From 40 we helped it go up to 120 students.”
A potential concern for students could be the cost of studying abroad. While a portion of the cost will indeed come from the student’s pocket, they are allowed to use financial aid. Meaning any grants, loans or scholarships received through West Texas A&M University can be used to pay for the experience.
“In addition to that, my office offers a scholarship, the International Education Fee Scholarship.” Galloway said. “If they are going for an entire semester abroad they can receive up to $3000. And if they are going for the summer, they can go anywhere from $300 to about $1000, depending on several factors like their GPA and their level of financial need, and the number of applicants that we have.”
WTAMU students interested in studying abroad left the fair with armloads of booklets and heads full of anecdotes from all the enthusiastic personnel. If you are interested in study abroad programs, you can request more information based on your needs, degree, and financial situation at the Study Abroad Office, located in the Student Success Center, room 115A, by calling 806-651 5309, or by emailing them at [email protected]