Where in the world?

David Taintor

Imagine climbing the Table Mountains of South Africa in the warm African sun, or taking a joy ride on an ostrich or even cage diving with sharks. Now picture doing all of these things during a school term and earning college credit along the way.

Does that sound too good to be true?
For senior Mike Pukansky, these events were more than just his imagination. For him, they were reality and going to school made them all possible.

UW-Eau Claire’s study abroad program offers its students the chance to participate in a number of different abroad programs all over the world. Programs can range from being an entire year long, to a semester, or summer long.

Study abroad coordinator Susan Lochner said there are a number of things to look for when choosing a program.

“I think one of the main things is what courses are offered at their site . so they’re actually able to make progress towards their degree and are able to still graduate on time,” Lochner said.

Senior Nick Wellenstein studied abroad in Australia and talked to his adviser right away to find out how things worked and took classes there to stay on track.

How Much?
Another aspect Lochner said students should think about is cost. There are a wide range of program costs. Some programs are similar in cost to a semester on-campus at Eau Claire plus airfare, while other programs double or triple an on-campus semester of tuition.

Lochner said the study abroad brochure and Web site list total costs for each program. Total costs include what a semester at Eau Claire costs, which is around $7,763 for tuition, room and board. The total costs also factor in any extra costs, like passports, so there aren’t any unknown fees.

Pukansky said his summer study abroad experience in South Africa was approximately an $8,000 to $9,000 program.

Program costs do vary from program to program. Lochner said the Australia, United Kingdom and Ireland programs tend to be more expensive than the others because they charge students non-resident tuitions because they know students have an interest in going to those sites. These trips can cost $16,000 or more. The Lancaster, England program does cost $21,000 for the spring but includes two terms and allows a student to earn 20 credits.

Wellenstein was one of Eau Claire’s students interested in going to the England and Ireland programs but felt he could go there on vacation if he wanted to.

“Australia was so far away and I knew I wouldn’t be able to go there unless I studied aboard,” he said. “I hate winter . and I heard the weather was nice and the people were, too.”

Overall, Wellenstein said he spent close to $14,000 for his trip and found cost an issue at the end of his trip when he started running out of money.

Need money?
Students who choose to study abroad do have options for covering costs. Lochner said on the study abroad site there are a number of scholarships available that are Eau Claire specific. Some are for students who need financial aid and others are for students with particular majors or minors. There are national scholarships that can go up to $5,000, like the Benjamin Gilman scholarship; there are specific ones for countries, as well. Every national, regional and local scholarship that is known to the study abroad office is listed.

The deadlines for scholarships are about a year in advance so a student will be aware of whether or not they’ll need the money.

“There are little things you can do like asking for money instead of presents for Christmas and birthdays or not getting that late night pizza,” Lochner said.

Students are also told to think creatively when looking for financial aid by going to local Lions Clubs and Rotary clubs to get support. Lochner said some students have done this and received $500 to $1,000 scholarships.

Sophomore Logan McCarville is studying abroad in South Korea this upcoming summer and hopes to receive some scholarship funding.

“I think I’m going to apply for a student learning scholarship that will be worth $500, but it’s not due until April,” McCarville said.

How do you say.
Another aspect of studying abroad that can deter students from the experience is the language gap, but Lochner said language shouldn’t affect a student’s decision to go abroad because there are 45 locations that don’t have a language requirement and students can also take all English speaking courses. Classes can be taken before the trip to learn the foreign language if needed.

Another concern students abroad address involves safety. Many of the sites offered through study abroad are located in big cities where populations are more than a million people. Lochner said a lot of safety tips and health tips are covered during the study abroad orientation, like not walking alone at night, using a money belt (which is something that can be worn underneath clothes for passports and credit cards) and following the advice of the host institutions.

“During orientation they warned us not to wear American clothes and not to enforce stereotypes of America,” McCarville said.

During his time in South Africa, Pukansky said for the most part he felt safe but had an experience where he didn’t feel as safe.

“There was a time where I went to place that wasn’t safe by accident,” Pukansky said. “I never felt directly in danger. They always warned us from doing overly dangerous things and what to expect . I thought it was all pretty accurate.”

Been there, done that
One of the big advantages to studying abroad is what it means to future employers. Lochner said study abroad is highly sought after by employers because it shows people are willing to travel as well as being resourceful, adaptive, more independent and culturally aware.

Lochner used to work at the University of Minnesota in their study abroad program and remembers an interesting conversation she had with one company.

“One company wouldn’t hire people who didn’t study abroad because people in the Midwest tend to be very rooted and were having a hard time finding people willing to fly to Chicago for meetings,” she said.

Pukansky agrees that the experience does look good on resumes but believes students should study abroad because it’s an unbeatable experience.

“I would say (students) should definitely do it because it’s an amazing experience because you get to see other cultures you wouldn’t normally see,” he said. “Start saving money and try to make some plans, but don’t make too many because it’s always good to improvise and do as much as possible.”