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More programs cause study abroad numbers to rise

March 02, 2011 12:00AM

These Pittsburg State students spent their winter break traveling to Costa Rica with the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. They studied intensive Spanish and lived with Costa Rican host families.

More Pittsburg State University students will be studying overseas this year, thanks to an increase in faculty willing to create partnerships with foreign universities and lead group programs abroad.

The Office of International Programs and Services and the Study Abroad Committee at PSU has approved more faculty-led study abroad programs than ever before, offering 12 different programs this year over just eight last year. This year's excursions include study opportunities (some as long as four weeks) to Spain, Bolivia, Greece, Italy, England, Scotland, Paraguay, Korea, Kazakhstan, Peru, France, Germany, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

These programs, led by faculty from all corners of campus, are in addition to the individual study abroad opportunities students find. That brings this year's total to approximately 125 students who will be educated overseas, said Megan Corrigan, PSU's study abroad coordinator. Individual programs have occurred this year in countries including Ireland, Australia, Morocco, Croatia and Turkey.

"We like to hope that word is getting out more that these opportunities exist," she said. "Our goal is to approve as many faculty requests to lead study abroad programs as we can. More programs means students in more diverse majors can find options that count toward their degrees and support their academic goals."

Nationally, the average for college students studying abroad is about 2 percent. Pittsburg State remains close to that percentage, although efforts to encourage more students to travel are continuing to increase. A large part of this year's numbers, Corrigan said, are due to new funds available to Honors College students. This summer, those students will travel to Greece and Italy for a music course.

Across the board, PSU is helping students find more financial aid opportunities. "That has been an incredible part of helping students make studying abroad happen," Corrigan said. "The loans and scholarships are available, and we have financial aid officers who can help them find all sorts of funds they may not have known about."

For some students (and parents) the thought of taking off to a foreign country with little oversight may be a reason they choose to stay home. The benefits of faculty-led travel, said Corrigan, are numerous: the programs are diverse and well-organized, students know exactly what coursework is expected and how many course credits they will receive, and many students feel safer - especially when traveling for the first time - with a group and chaperone.

"I think parents are reassured when a faculty member is in charge," she said. "For many students, it's their first time out of the country, so a long-term experience might be intimidating. A fair number of faculty-led students often go on to check into an individual study abroad program in the future."

For Dr. Craig Fuchs, head of the Honors College, leading his second program abroad is admittedly a lot of work, but a valuable experience for his students. "I've traveled abroad a number of times and felt the impact of those experiences on my life," he said. "As a faculty member, it makes you want to share that with your students."

---Pitt State---

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