Study Abroad: Attaining a wider perspective

by Jamila Jacob

 

The ability to travel, both domestically and internationally, is one of the greatest privileges a human could have. Traveling, especially internationally is one of the most sought after and costliest leisure activities to exist. A great benefit to attending college, apart from having access to higher education, is having study abroad opportunities at one’s disposal. In fact, many students’ first travel experience might have been through a study abroad program at their institution.

University of Sevilla, Spain. Study Abroad destination

At Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, though a relatively small institution, there are countless opportunities to travel abroad to pursue college courses. Students have been to a variety of continents where they have visited countries like South Africa, Kenya, Spain, China, Ireland, Ecuador and Mexico. Some have even opted to study aboard a cruise ship where they docked in several countries in Europe, Africa and Asia during the semester.

However, despite having the chance to go all over the world, a very small portion of the campus population has actually taken it. Several factors can influence why this is so. The most obvious reason would be finances. “I would have liked to study abroad when I was here but I was too broke to do that,” a Lincoln University graduate shared. However, the truth of the matter is that financial issues can actually be the least of these students’ problems as not only does Financial Aid cover the costs, but many times the programs abroad are very close to or even less than the cost of those at the home university itself. For example, the total expenses for a spring semester for an in-state, resident upperclassman student at Lincoln University is listed as $9,871 and $12,686 for out-of-state students. The cost of a spring semester abroad at Ecuador for example with the CCIS study abroad program costs $10,530 for tuition, housing and fees. In addition to being covered by financial aid, the university offers scholarships for both in and out-of-state students (this includes internationals) to assist with handling the expenses incurred such as the Vira Heinz scholarship, the Gilman scholarship and the Global Studies scholarship.

statistics show that only 5.9 percent of the African American student population is represented on study abroad experiences, while 9.7 percent of Hispanics study abroad and 71.6 percent of Caucasian American student study abroad within one academic year.  

While there is opportunity for financial assistance, we acknowledge that scheduling is also an issue. A few students have indicated interest in studying abroad but having no time to do so according to their program of study. However, such students have been in the minority. The most widely used reason for not studying abroad thus far is actually a mental one: fear. “I really wanted to study abroad but my parents really made me feel like I shouldn’t do it,” a Lincoln sophomore stated. Many families, especially those of African descent, have this fear of exploring the wider world. According to studies by NAFSA Association of International Educators for the academic year of 2015-2016, statistics show that only 5.9 percent of the African American student population is represented on study abroad experiences, while 9.7 percent of Hispanics study abroad and 71.6 percent of Caucasian American students study abroad within one academic year.  Possibly with the American mass media as a major culprit, there is this apprehension to leave one’s comfort zones and to open up to other cultures and ideologies. People have been groomed to think that not only is it too expensive to explore the wider world, but that it is too dangerous and unwelcoming. Undoubtedly, there are social ills in every society across the globe and we should wholeheartedly acknowledge that. However, we need not continue to think that we should not go beyond our localities as in doing so we acquire knowledge, personal growth and a widened perspective.

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