By Shannon Nelson
Many students have heard how important it is to study abroad, but the necessary steps it takes to get there are often not discussed.
Director of Study Abroad, Dr. Philip Hull, said the most important step is to “start early” and to make studying abroad “part of your academic plan.” When starting early, students should talk to both their adviser and Dr. Hull to figure out which classes they will take at Saint Mary’s University and abroad. It’s essential for students to know if their credits will transfer back to SMU.
Next, students must apply to a program. Dr. Hull recommends choosing a program that “suits your interests and academic plan” to get the most out of the experience. Students must submit an application to both the program and to SMU. A GPA requirement of 2.5 is part of a student’s academic history that is checked before studying abroad.
It is also very important to plan ahead financially. Up to $2,000 of SMU scholarships may apply to study abroad and students’ federal and state aid may apply, depending on the chosen program.
However, if a student chooses the SMU London Program, all financial aid and scholarships apply. “Many programs provide in-house scholarships from $500 to $1000,” said Dr. Hull. He also works with students individually to help them find scholarships.
Nationally, 65 percent of students choose a program in France, Great Britain, Spain or Italy, making these four locations the most popular study abroad destinations, said Dr. Hull. SMU’s top destination is England because of the London study abroad program.
Typically, students pursuing a major or minor in a foreign language, theatre, humanities and fine arts study abroad.
Studying abroad provides great experiences on both a personal and academic level. Dr. Hull believes studying abroad helps with “personal development in terms of independence and sensitivity to other cultures.” Studying abroad is also very beneficial in career development.
Only 1.5 percent of college students in the U.S. have study abroad experience, according to Dr. Hull. “It really sets you apart in jobs, and cultural sensitivity and foreign language are valued by employers,” said Dr. Hull.
Dr. Hull encourages students to join the 30 to 40 SMU students who study abroad each year. For more information about studying abroad, visit the Study Abroad Office in Saint Mary’s Hall, Room 136.