To study abroad or not to study abroad?
Only nine students decided to do the former in the last three years, according to statistics provided by Kay Schwob, director of the enterprise resource center. The number does not include students on their Practical Research and Immersion for Ministry Effectiveness internship.
Senior Steven Uhey spent the fall 2014 semester in England studying at Oxford University through the Oxford Scholar’s Program.
“I found out about the program through a Google search,” Uhey said. “I didn’t know until December 2013 that the program even existed.”
Despite the short notice Uhey was able to complete the needed paperwork and apply for a tier four student visa.
“No one warned me that I would need this visa,” he said. “Not even people from Oxford informed me about it.”
Uhey contributed his confusion to a lack of communication from the Oxford program and from the university. Overall, however, Uhey’s experience at Oxford was a positive one, he said.
“My experience was very valuable but not very fun.” Uhey said. “It’s a ton of work.”
Uhey said his semester abroad did not count toward his cultural enrichment class requirement. Because of this, he is enrolled in a sociology course during his final semester so he can graduate in May.
“Reading a book about anthropology counts as cultural enrichment, but living in a different continent for three-and-a-half months didn’t,” he said.
Senior Andrew Wickersham also studied abroad, spending his semester in Amman, Jordan. He was searching online by recommendation of his advisor for the same Oxford program which Uhey attended. Instead, Wickersham found the Middle Eastern Studies Program, also through Best Semester, a partner with the university in study abroad opportunities.
Wickersham spent the semester traveling throughout the Middle East to countries such as Israel, Palestine, Morocco and Turkey as well as taking classes in Arabic and Islamic thought and practice. He also attended lectures by prominent politicians from Hamas and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party.
“As a history major, this program vastly altered my approach to Middle Eastern History,” Wickersham said. “It is no longer an abstract academic study. It is extremely personal.”
At Goshen College, students are required to spend a semester studying abroad through their Study Service Term (SST). Potential locations were limited to China, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Senegal and Peru.
There is no such requirement for the university’s students.
Sophomore Ben Lazar, a transfer from GC, said he was relieved he did not have to participated in SST.
“I am interested in doing my PRIME abroad in either Romania, Scotland, or Brazil,” he said.
Daniel Binkoski, a 2014 alumnus, spent a semester in Shanghai, China.
“I studied abroad the first semester of my senior year,” Binkoski said. “But I had to know that was when I was studying abroad at the end of my freshman year.”
In order to take all the classes he needed to graduate, Binkoski had to carefully plan out his four years.
Binkoski’s program in Shanghai cost less than a semester at the university but none of his scholarships counted toward the program.
“Even though the sticker price was a lot cheaper than a semester at HU, most of my financial aid didn’t transfer, and so it was a lot more expensive,” he said.
Uhey faced a similar difficulty with finances. His semester at Oxford cost $18,600, but he only received $500 in scholarship money from the university.
“I’m fortunate enough that my parents were able to take the financial hit of my semester in Oxford,” he said, “but a lot of students aren’t. It makes it very difficult to study abroad.”
Uhey said the university should implement a system where they cover a significant portion of the cost to study abroad. He said this would convince more prospective students to become Foresters.
“I know specific students from Gordon College who said they went to Gordon because it offered the Oxford program,” Uhey said.
Uhey said the added profit of students coming to the university to study abroad would cover the cost of such a program. He said he understands that there are logistics involved in the financial decisions behind the study abroad program.
“I realize there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t understand and that it costs a lot,” he said, “but I think HU should consider the possible benefit of having a study abroad program.”