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Six myths of study abroad debunked

What classes should I take? What do I want to do after graduation? How should I spend my summer?

Every day, the typical college student is faced with questions that could potentially impact the rest of his or her life. For several, the opportunities presented with a study abroad experience make the question of whether to stay or go an easy one.  

According to the NAFSA Association of International Educators' statement on "Principles for U.S. Study Abroad,” one of the most effective ways to increase U.S. understanding of other languages and cultures and to improve our ability to function in this interdependent world is to provide individuals with opportunities to study abroad. By living and studying in another country, people “learn to live with and appreciate different points of view and gain a more global perspective on life's challenges and opportunities."

For many students, however, the process of deciding whether or not to study abroad is an overwhelming one. Many who don’t get the right facts or don’t take advantage of Ohio University’s Office of Education Abroad let myths about study abroad keep them from the potential experience of a lifetime.  

Myth #1: “I can’t afford to study abroad.”

When weighing all of the benefits to studying abroad, one can’t afford not to go.

For all Ohio University study abroad and exchange programs, as well as for partner and affiliate programs of the university, students may apply their funding packages during the academic year. There are also multiple scholarships offered through the Office of Education Abroad, other OHIO offices and many other foundations, organizations and institutions.

By speaking with a financial adviser or a representative from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, talking with the study abroad program director or provider about additional opportunities and planning early, many students successfully offset the cost of their study abroad experience.  

Myth #2: “I can’t study abroad because I can’t speak a foreign language.”

While knowing a foreign language is an important and valuable skill, it is not a requirement for study abroad. There are many English-speaking programs that do not require a foreign language available throughout the world. During the 2007-08 school year, only 6.2 percent of students studying abroad were language majors.

Many students choose to study abroad to begin learning a language or complete their language requirement. One example is the Italian in Florence program, in which students spend the summer completing the equivalent of three OHIO quarters of Italian language at the beginner or intermediate level.

Myth #3: “If I study abroad, I won’t graduate on time.”

Study abroad programs offered through Ohio University are academic and can fulfill everything from general requirements to major courses.

“What many students don’t realize is that when they go through an OHIO program, they are taking the exact same courses and credits that they would be taking here on campus,” said Office of Education Abroad Peer Adviser Bethany Scott.

Additionally, partner, affiliate and other programs often grant students transfer credit. Students who plan ahead and talk to their academic adviser before studying abroad often find themselves on track to a timely graduation.

“Many students even find themselves coming out ahead, especially if they decide to participate in a summer or winter intersession study abroad program,” added Scott, who studied in Ecuador last spring.

Myth #4: “There are no study abroad programs where I want to go.”

The Ohio University Office of Education Abroad offers study abroad programs in more than 30 countries. Students can also choose from programs at other universities or from OHIO affiliates and third-party providers.

“There are very few places in the world with no programs,” said Catherine Marshall, director of the Office of Education Abroad. “OHIO has many programs in many places, but of course we can’t be everywhere. Once you add our affiliate and third-party programs, however, the selection broadens to nearly anywhere in the world.”

For more information on programs in a specific area of the world, contact the Office of Education Abroad or visit the office in Lindley 185, Monday through Friday from 1-4 p.m.

Myth #5: “Study abroad will not benefit my career.”

In today’s global society, being able to operate in other cultures is a valuable skill in any field.

According to Interim Assistant Director of Career Services Heather Pittman, in a global market where businesses are working across the world, companies are seeking out students with international experience.
“Employers definitely look for employees who have the ability to work across cultures and in a global environment,” Pittman said. “A study abroad experience is definitely one way that a student can show potential employers that he or she can do that.”
Although this is not a new concept, it is definitely becoming more important in society, said Pittman.

According to a 2007-08 survey, 77 percent of students who study abroad agree that they gained skills that influenced their career path. Additionally, OHIO study abroad programs are geared toward experience in many different fields, including teaching, photography, medicine, engineering and more.

Myth #6: “It’s too late for me to study abroad.”

Although students are encouraged to start researching programs early on in their academic career, there are still many opportunities for upperclassman.

“There are programs all throughout the year and even in the summer that often fit into students’ schedules and with students’ majors,” Marshall said. “If a student starts looking later in the game, they may not have the exact same selection that they would have had earlier on, but there are still so many options.”

“It is definitely worth the effort to come in and speak to an adviser,” Marshall continued, adding, “You never know if you don’t look.”