One of my international scholarship students inquired about Parkland’s short-term study abroad over spring break in Costa Rica. It got me thinking about the possibility of international students doing study abroad.
“International students are already studying abroad,” you might say. Yes, while that is true, sometimes the short-term experience of studying in a third country can deeply enhance their total student experience. Here are some advantages international students may want to consider:
1. While in a third culture, the playing field is leveled; American students may no longer have the edge when it comes to being familiar with the culture, the language, the food, etc. In fact, in some cases, the international student may have the upper hand in navigating new and unfamiliar cultural territory, and can help guide the other students.
2. Studying in a short-term program is an intense experience with a small group. These kinds of experiences provide opportunities for international students to bond quickly with U.S. students on the same trip, something most international students value very highly.
3. Experiencing the culture of a third country can often provide invaluable perspective on international students’ long-term study in the U.S., exposing them to other reflections and attitudes to U.S. culture.
4. Many short-term study abroad trips help all students see a “slice of life” they might never otherwise be exposed to. Unlike tourists, education abroad participants must “roll up their sleeves” and dig more deeply into the culture of the host country, even if only for a couple of weeks.
Several years ago, one of our international students, who was also a champion wheelchair basketball player, decided to travel with a group of U.S. students to Costa Rica. He knew he would have some difficulties, as there would be substantially fewer accommodations for his disability there. He was not deterred. When the group decided to go on the trails, the international student decided to accompany them. The group had bonded so closely that whatever parts of the trail couldn’t be navigated in a wheelchair, they took turns carrying the student and helping with his wheelchair. Clearly, trust had been built very quickly, and the friendships lasted after the group returned to the U.S.
International students may have additional logistical concerns when studying abroad. All students must have a valid visa for re-entry to the U.S. once they leave. F-1 students should get their I-20s signed before leaving. International students must also investigate whether or not a special visa will be required to enter the country of study abroad destination; their visa requirements may be quite different from U.S. students travelling to the same country. If the stay outside the U.S. will be longer than five months, students may have to take a leave of absence, and then ask the International Student Services office to assist them to change their I-20 back to active status when they are planning to return.
The International Student Services office can help with all stages of this planning, and answer any questions or concerns students might have. If you decide to embark on this adventure, we want you to be able to focus on the most important thing: learning! Visit all the study abroad programs we have to offer at http://www.parkland.edu/international/studyabroad.