Students contour their own study abroad experience

Studying Abroad offers new world experiences, an opportunity to learn a language, and to be fully immersed in a different culture, but with hidden program prices and a lack of communication from the university, some students have taken to doing study abroad their own way.

The Power of International Education cites 332,727 students studied abroad in the 2016/2017 academic school year, having a 2.3 percent increase from 2015/2016. 685 students at Ole Miss studied abroad in the 2016/2017 academic year, according to study abroad advisor, Roc Cook. This trend is predicted to clime, so long as students can afford the price of programs.

Any student considering a study abroad opportunity should use our office as an immediate and direct resource,” Cook said. “And begin the preparation work to formulate a plan, as early as possible.”

However, there are some students taking alternatives to this process. For example, junior IMC major, Emma Webb, has been doing iStudy while interning for a PR firm in London this fall semester.

Doing an internship for the semester on my own instead of through a school has been rewarding because it’s put me into the actual lifestyle of Londoners,” Webb said.

Webb studied abroad in London her spring semester through the Ole Miss study abroad program with King’s College.

“Studying  abroad through a program is very fun but it tends to be more expensive because of there being a lot more free time,” Webb said. “I enjoyed studying abroad through an Ole Miss program last semester because it immersed me with other students and was full of constant fun activities which proved to be expensive, though.”

Ole Miss Study Abroad offers programs that cost the same as tuition. Mississippi residents look to pay around 5,635 dollars for a semester abroad. Non-residents will pay around 13,612 dollars for a semester. These costs do not include living accommodations or plane tickets, and specific programs, like Webb’s through Arcadia, cost more. 

After already having experienced the student lifestyle, Webb has taught herself how to spend more effectively while living abroad.

“The prices are better because I am working all the time and I tend to spend less money in general on any given day,” Webb said. “I spend about 60-100 pounds a week on food. 60 pounds is possible if I am trying hard and making it a point.”

Financial problems are the leading reasons students do not study abroad, despite offering some programs the same as tuition and being able to apply for financial aid. As Webb said, internships have the benefit of gaining experience and not having to pay high rates for a program.

This map directs students looking to live abroad in the top 20 places, according to Business Insider, with prices under 4,400 dollars. Students typically average three courses when studying abroad. This map accounts for the price of taking three iStudy courses, a plane ticket, and potential internship experiences.

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The link here explores prices for self directed intern abroad ideas.

When students go through Ole Miss Study Abroad, each class must get approved by the individual departments. After that course is approved from that department, the student then goes back to their majors’ dean and they approve the courses overall. Students doing iStudy go onto their MyOleMiss account, select iStudy courses, and get them approved by just the dean of their school. 

“It’s a lot easier,” Webb said, on registering through iStudy.

This process often changes course schedules once students get to their host universities. Kathryn Reagan, who studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh last spring semester submitted her courses for approval in November before she arrived in Edinburgh in mid-January.

I had to change classes due to courses conflicting, so I had to submit new course approval forms,” said Reagan, “I did not get much help in that process while abroad.  It was difficult to find the appropriate contact information for the different departments.”

There are currently six staff members to the 685 students that study abroad a semester. They help to advise those considering studying abroad and are meant to be the contact point for those already overseas.

Jennifer Simmons, Assistant Dean for Student Services at the School of Journalism, suggests that students should have a list of courses they would take as a backup plan in the event they are unable to get into their first-choice classes.  

“Just like when exchange students come to the University of Mississippi, they are often the last students to be able to register for classes when they arrive at their abroad destination,” Simmons said. “Many classes are likely closed. Students should be prepared to go with their second, third, or fourth-choice class when registration occurs.”

This process can take up to the first month of studying abroad, or else students wait until they are back in the United States to get their classes reapproved. Courses also offered at a host school may not transfer to Ole Miss, and this can only be determined by the immediate approval of classes.

The best advice I can give to students is to start the process early,” Simmons said.

According to Simmons, internships are also important for students to gain work experience during college, particularly for journalism and IMC majors.

“We have had students who completed internships while abroad,” Simmons said. “This allowed them to gain work experience and have the abroad experience they desired.”

In a 2015 study by National Association of Colleges and Employers, 53 percent of graduates said that they obtained their jobs directly from their internships.

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Ole Miss student, Kylie Grimstad, compares study abroad prices.

“I would advise students studying abroad to not take the studying part too seriously,” Brendan Ryan, a senior Chinese major, said. “For me, it’s all about the experience, and the language and cultural gains you will make by focusing your life on things outside the classroom will far beat any time spent in the library cramming for exams.”

Brendan Ryan participated in the Capstone Year of the Chinese Flagship program in Nanjing, China. There he received 16 credits of Chinese Language credit and for the second semester he received 3 credits for an internship.

“I think someone needs to be relatively independent to study abroad,” Ryan said. “Especially in a country where English isn’t really an option for communication.”

While living abroad for a year, Ryan had minimal contact with the Study Abroad office. Instead, he said there was an in-country staff not affiliated with the university that helped him resolve any issues.

“There are definitely ways to study abroad without Ole Miss,” Ryan said.

Ryan suggested the Boren Scholarship and the Critical Language Scholarship, which offers funding for students. He also recommended utilizing Fulbright for students who have already graduated or are graduating.

“I think it’s all about what you want out of it. This way has been different because I’ve been fully immersed into the culture around me. That’s been rewarding,” Emma Webb said.

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