Students looking to study abroad have numerous financial aid opportunities, administrators say.
The Division of Continuing and Global Education office at Fresno State oversees extended education, or non-traditional programs, that the state does not support as well as international education. This includes the Study Abroad and International Exchanges office.
“On average, 300 to 350 students travel abroad a year,” said Russell Statham, Division of Continuing and Global Education manager.
Fresno State offers three program choices for studying abroad. Students can either choose the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), the California State University International Programs (CSUIP) or an exchange program.
A shorter study abroad program, called travel study, is also available. Travel studies can be taken at any time during the academic semester, but are typically taken during spring break, winter break and summer vacation, Statham said.
“Some of the most popular places to study abroad are England, Spain, Thailand and Australia. Previous to the travel regulations, Mexico was a popular destination. But because it’s on the state department’s high hazard list, students aren’t allowed to go there right now,” Statham said.
Samantha Cingari, a student assistant at the Study Abroad and International Exchanges office, went to Chile with an exchange program to study Spanish last year. She said the requirements differ from one program to another.
“Most programs do require a certain GPA of at least 2.5 or higher, and some programs may require you to at least be a sophomore in college to apply,” Cingari said. “If you go to a country that speaks a different language, you may be required to have a certain language requirement already taken. But not all programs have a language requirement.”
Cingari says that when studying abroad, there is an option to stay in a home with a family, in on-campus housing or in off-campus housing. She also explained that with each program, there are optional field trips planned out in the itinerary to help students acclimate to the new culture.
The cost to study abroad varies in location and length. Depending on what program students choose, financial aid may be available.
“On average, spring and fall semester programs can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,500 depending on location. Summer programs can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,500 and travel studies, which are shorter, would be less,” Cingari said.
“With USAC, you can use a majority of your financial aid, but if you receive a state university grant, that financial aid is specific to studying to Fresno State and you can’t take that with you abroad. But with other programs like CSUIP, you can use your state university grant because it’s connected to the CSU system,” Statham said.
USAC and the other programs offer their own scholarships to students studying abroad with each individual program.
Statham said Instructionally Related Activities, or IRA, is a fee that students pay in their tuition costs that is put in a pool of funds that can be allocated for campus projects. Last summer, $1,000 was given to 150 students studying abroad for the International Travel Grant Program.
There are many scholarships designed to help students with the costs of studying abroad, as well. The Gilman Scholarship is a federal program available for students that receive Pell Grants.
Up to $5,000 from Pell Grants can be used to help students study abroad.
The Boren Scholarships and Fellowships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduates who choose to study abroad in places that are of interest to the United States. These places include Africa, Asia, central and eastern Europe and the Middle East.
“The requirement with [the Boren Scholarship] is once you come back and graduate, you have to spend 2 years working for the federal government,” Statham said.
Raven Kapphahn won the Boren Scholarship for the 2012-2013 school year. Kapphahn traveled to Jordan to study Arabic and has also traveled to Finland and Ghana on numerous scholarships.
“I was in Jordan for a whole year, and it was an amazing experience. I chose to study Arabic because I want to do global social work and really wanted a language that would give me the ability to help many people in numerous countries,” Kapphahn said. “Unlike staying in Fresno, the opportunity taught me so much about the Arab culture and even more about myself.”
Statham said the world has become a globally connected environment and the ability to relate to other cultures and have experience in other countries is valuable for graduates.
“[Studying abroad] really sets students out in term of their long-term careers,” he said. “When you are looking to get a job just after graduating from a university, anything that you can do that separates yourself from others I think is very positive. And the organizations of today are really looking for students and applicants that have international experience.”
For students who are interested in studying abroad, the Study Abroad and International Exchanges office holds informational meetings. Cingari said the meetings give a better look at each program and show which programs offer scholarship information and individual advising.