With study abroad, students leave home for new adventures
Cage diving with great white sharks was on Jordan Corp’s mind when he decided to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa.
“I’m a huge [Discovery Channel] ‘Shark Week’ fan,” said Corp, an accounting major. “Cape Town has the highest population of great white sharks.”
Corp was surprised by the dynamic location he chose for his study abroad experience and learned a lot about the monetary status of Cape Town.
“I found that there was a pretty interesting economic atmosphere with the apartheid [movement],” Corp said. “It’s still recovering. It has the most segregated economic classes.”
For many UIC students who want to study abroad, financial feasibility is a top question, said Chris Deegan, executive director of UIC’s Study Abroad Office.
“It’s interesting to see that the biggest concern is also the one that gets the most success and attention,” Deegan said. “We actually survey students and consistently over the years, the biggest hurdle is cost. Some of this is imaginary. People think that it costs a lot when in fact the average cost of a program is really no more than what it costs to attend UIC for a semester, living on campus with a meal plan.”
Many students do not realize that they can pay for a study abroad experience through scholarships and other financial help. In 2013, UIC study abroad students received $316,900 in scholarships and grants, a 17 percent increase from the previous year.
According to Deegan, 40 percent of study abroad students are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant — a monetary award given to undergraduate students across the nation.
Senior Rachel Luckett studied abroad in Florence, Italy. After spilling olive oil on her laptop, the entrepreneurship major went to the nearest computer shop and met a couple who needed assistance with Photoshop software. She started collaborating with them on their wine and oil company.
“Now I’m working with them to re-create their wine label,” Luckett said.
Lynn Reidl, a graduate assistant and master’s candidate in urban planning and policy, studied in London, where she participated in the Great Cities program and conducted research with a small group.
“We compared the architectural icons of Chicago to London and their social and economic impact,” she said.
Deegan said some study abroad students fear leaving home for a foreign country. “The majority of students have not traveled abroad,” Deegan said. “Many of our students have traveled in very confined circumstances — with family or to visit family.”
Such was the case for senior Danielle Hisle, who was hesitant about embarking on her summer abroad in Rome.
“I’ve never traveled outside the country before,” she said. “So going outside the country and the culture shock, being in a different place where they don’t speak English often, it was scary.”
Hisle ultimately felt at ease with her surroundings. After she was given a map, Hisle recalls, her professor told her class to go and get lost in the city.
“That’s how you experience things,” she said.
Senior Jessica Droege said studying abroad in Siena meant leaving a place of comfort and adjusting to a new place until she found the same sense of security.
“In the middle of Siena, there’s a clock tower and tradition there is that you’re not allowed to go up the tower until you graduate college,” she said. “I promised myself that I will come back and go up that tower.”
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