STORY BY GUILIANA LAMANTIA
With a multitude of opportunities, locations and programs, planning a study abroad trip can be daunting. However, with the help of the International Center and an understanding of what is wanted from the experience, students can easily find the right place for them.
Associate director of Drake international education abroad Jen Hogan said most students typically tend to travel to western Europe, with England, Spain and Italy being the top choices over the past 10 years. There are many opportunities, and students can chose a program through a variety of different factors.
“I like to look at a couple of different angles, so it needs to fit academically,” Hogan said. “The other thing we want to look at is affordability, because we want to make sure it’s a cost effective program, and that it falls within your range of affordability. The other is career goals. What do you want to get from this program professionally? How are you going to apply it to prospective employers?”
Hogan also recommends students look at their goals in terms of language, career, travel and service learning.
After Hogan helps match students with locations and programs, they typically take the next steps by meeting with advisers and family to accommodate family and educational needs.
Despite the many factors to consider while choosing a destination, Hogan has seen an upward trend in students choosing locations with the best opportunities for their career.
“I’m seeing more and more students be more intentional about their study abroad, that would mean students are trying to maximize their time abroad to get the most out of it,” Hogan said.
Hogan is working on a project creating advising guides with input from advisers and faculty that help determine the best programs and locations for students depending on school and major. This initiative is currently taking place in the business school, where they have already found over 30 programs around the world best-suited for business students.
Also helping with this project is junior Lucas Shapland, who works in the International Center and answers students’ study abroad questions.
Shapland studied abroad in Australia last spring and takes a unique approach while advising students.
“I usually tell people to think about what they can do in the future versus what they don’t think they’ll have an opportunity to do in the future while choosing where they want to go,” Shapland said.
Junior Mollie Wheeler studied abroad in Chile last spring and received a lot of help from Hogan in choosing a location.
“I went in my freshman year and told (Hogan) I wanted to go abroad, but I had no idea where I wanted to go,” Wheeler said. “I was taking Spanish and I wanted to learn more Spanish for the business world.”
Wheeler traveled abroad through American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS) and strongly recommends that students look at what they want to gain from their experience, whether that be academics or language, and that they choose a location based off that criteria, even if it wasn’t a country originally at the top of their list.
“I would say really research into where you want to go and make sure that’s the right place and program for you,” Wheeler said. “After you’ve chosen everything you’re not done yet, keep researching into the culture that way you’re not as shocked when you get there.”
To promote traveling to more students, Wheeler started up an international student blog this semester. Students who study abroad can contribute to it with their experiences for prospective students to read and learn the benefits of traveling abroad.
Wheeler, Hogan and Shapland strongly encouraged students to study abroad, no matter the location or time.
“This is such a great time in students’ lives that you’re learning so much about yourselves, and sometimes it’s good to take a break away from your comfort zone to really dig deep in who you are,” Hogan said. “I think fundamentally the personal transformation is one of the biggest things that can happen to you when you’re abroad or away. Students come back and they’re much more confident and they have stories, and they’re able to go forward in life feeling they can accomplish things that they maybe didn’t think they could do before.”