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Financing study abroad opportunities

Breanna Thompson, a junior international relations and history double major who is currently spending a semester in Morocco, has a mission: to aid Drake students in achieving the university’s call for global citizenship.

After spending two months abroad in Muscat, Oman last summer completely on scholarship, Thompson is passionate about making studying abroad less of a financial burden for Drake students.

Throughout the fall semester, Thompson worked with the Alumni Development Office and with the Center for International Programs and Services after receiving support from Student Senate to create an endowment fund to aid students in any of their international prospects.

“Depending on the program, the semester can actually be more expensive than your regular semester at Drake when you include flights and things like that,” Thompson said.

Katie Nelson, a first-year student who is working out the kinks for her own study-abroad experience, agrees that spending a semester abroad is an opportunity that students should take advantage of.

“Rather than experiencing your semester as a student in Iowa, you’re experiencing a whole new world as a student abroad,” Nelson said. “Culturally, you get so much more out of your semester. In some places, however, the exchange rate is low, your travel costs could be high and touring isn’t cheap.”

It can also be more expensive, Thompson said, when students choose a program outside of those partnered with the university. Drake offers students one-fourth of their total yearly academic scholarships (or half of their semester scholarships) to study abroad, but only if a student chooses a Drake affiliate.

Many programs, however, are available for one-time affiliation. This means that while Thompson chose an outside program for her experience in Morocco, she still received her scholarship after talking with her adviser, making plans with the study-abroad office, speaking with financial aid and creating a bigger hassle for herself.

“My idea with these extra scholarships would be a way of getting money from the university to go abroad and contribute to your education at Drake, but you don’t have to go through those extra loop holes,” Thompson said. “My hope is that people will then have other options and more options for programs if they don’t have to worry so much about it always having to be affiliated with Drake.”

Thompson began this undertaking last semester by presenting to an alumni recruiting board that planned to take her information to potential donors who want to give directly to students involved internationally.

“(They) wanted my story and were interested because they can bring that to the donors and kind of convince them more that that is one of the needs of the students,” Thompson said.

Thompson began working closely with Jen Hogan, assistant director of international programs and services/study abroad.

“I think the way we’re approaching funding and education abroad here at Drake is something that has been up for discussion for the last couple of years,” Hogan said. “We have programs and we have schools that we work with that offer certain scholarships, but we recognize that sometimes it’s just not enough.”

Hogan and Thompson are each optimistic, however, that the university will start distributing these funds to students sooner rather than later.

“Working out the details of the (fund), we’ll hopefully be able to (sketch) more of an approach toward a more general scholarship,” Hogan said. “For now, though, we’re hoping some of these other donors come through, too, so we can allocate money for scholarships because we absolutely look at it as a priority.”

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