Study Abroad Myths Debunked
We know students have a lot of questions and concerns about the idea of studying abroad, and we want to set the facts straight on myths surrounding the following topics: students, location, program, cost, time, major, graduation.
"My parents will never let me go abroad; No one in my family has ever studied abroad or been out of the country."
Attend information sessions and start sharing the information with your parents early on. The CIP office has a “Parents Page” on our website to help them understand the process, and answer general questions. You can also have them directly contact the CIP office as early as they want with questions/concerns, and we can help present the benefits of studying abroad to them.
"I play sports so I am unable to study abroad."
Students who play sports do have the opportunity to study abroad. If their sport is played during the fall or spring semester they can go abroad during the semester their sport is not in session. If their sport covers both semesters, athletes can go abroad during the summer or on one of the short-term programs.
"Studying abroad is only for white students."
Anyone who wants to study abroad can study abroad. Most administrators agree that increasing racial and ethnic diversity in study abroad will require an effort to persuade students that going abroad is both possible and necessary. If you are a person of color, ethnically diverse, someone with a disability or anyone else who doesn’t fit the “study abroad stereotype” – you can do it. Groups such as Diversity Abroad, MIUSA and NAFSA Special Interest Group provide support, and so can the CIP!
"I can’t study abroad because I have a disability."
The Office of Student Success and the CIP office will work with you to identify a country, program, and courses of study to suit your interests, talents and needs.
"With the state of the world today, it’s just too dangerous."
It’s important to note that the University’s International Travel Policy prohibits student travel to countries or regions with a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Travel Warning or a Level 3 or Level 4 State Department Travel Advisory. Furthermore, the Center for International Programs closely monitors our programs and current worldwide news and events and prioritizes student safety above all else. Still, students and families should stay abreast of world events and students should take standard safety precautions while traveling abroad (as they would here in Philadelphia).
"Students only study abroad in Europe."
Students study abroad in almost every country in the world. In fact, according to the 2018 Open Doors report, four of the top 10 destinations are outside of Europe: China, Australia, Costa Rica and Japan. More and more students are considering rising economic global players, such as India, Brazil or Turkey to give them an extra boost when it comes to the job search.
"It’s difficult to get accepted into a study abroad program."
Most of the students who meet the minimum qualifications and complete the application process in a timely manner are accepted to study abroad. The Center for International Programs work closely with students to find the program that best meets their needs and qualifications.
"All programs are alike, so I just need to pick my favorite country."
This couldn’t be more wrong. There are many types of study-abroad programs, designed to meet the wants and needs of all kinds of students in terms of academics and extracurriculars. The most common answer to any question about programs is “it depends." You need to do your research - review the different program options available to SJU students, the locations and meet with an advisor in the CIP office so that we can help you narrow down your choices.
"I’m going to make lots of local friends and travel as much as I can to see the world."
These two expectations are incompatible. If you spend all your free time traveling and away from the place where you’re studying, then you won’t have the needed time in your new, temporary home to make any local friends. Students from your host country are unlikely to have the money it takes to go away every weekend. So if you want to make local friends, you have to stick around and hang out with them. If traveling is what you think is most important, then realize you might end up traveling mostly or exclusively with other Americans.
"Traveling independently offers the same experience."
Studying abroad includes “studying,” whereas traveling does not. Traveling and tourism are added perks to studying abroad, but they should not overshadow the actual purpose of studying abroad, which is studying and living in another culture. Taking classes with local students, and honing language skills by communicating and interacting with local friends or a host family, will offer much deeper insight into the local culture. Rather than leaving town every weekend, students should explore their host community and spend time getting to know the subjects – and in the local language if possible. Students will learn about different education systems and ways of teaching. They will find themselves challenging their own ideas and beliefs once they’ve had a chance to experience an alternate perspective. Students will learn how to appreciate different cultures and solve problems while operating in an environment different from what they’re used to.
"I’m paying the same tuition as I would at my home university, so I should get exactly the same level of services, extracurricular opportunities, and technology."
NOT! You’re in a different country; things will be different. There are different standards of living, expectations, and priorities in other countries and cultures. You’ll undoubtedly think some things are better than at home and some things are worse. Remember that you have gone abroad to experience differences: Enjoy them!
"I will be alone if I participate in a non-faculty-led program."
At all approved program sites, there will be a director and/or staff who coordinate the program and are in charge of providing orientation, and who can assist you with all kinds of issues. Although you may be the only student from SJU on a given program, you will be joined by other students who are participating in the program and learning their way around, just like you.
"Study abroad costs too much."
The cost of studying varies depending on the type and location of the program, the length of the stay, and whether the program is administered through a university or an outside organization. There are a variety of ways to pay for studying abroad, including scholarships, financial aid, and loans. By planning ahead, you can speak to your family about your financial restrictions, as well as save for your time abroad. If budgeting is a concern, the cost of a program can be factored into choosing the right program for you.
"Financial aid doesn’t transfer to study abroad."
Wrong! Approved students can continue to receive their financial aid for their semester abroad, per the Policy.
"There aren’t many scholarships available for studying abroad."
Each year the CIP office gives $15,000 to students who study abroad. In addition, many SJU departments such as Asian Studies, Political Science, & Modern and Classical Languages all have their own scholarships for students who study abroad. Programs offer scholarships based on need, merit, first-generation college students, and diversity. There are hundreds and hundreds of study abroad scholarships available for merit, financial need and even specialty awards. Scholarships are offered by many other organizations, including private organizations, foreign governments, and many sponsored by the U.S. government, such as numerous Fulbright awards, Boren awards and the Benjamin A. Gilman Award. As an example, in 2018-2019, Gilman awarded 3,067 scholarships. Since its inception in 2001, Gilman has awarded more than 31,000 U.S. undergraduate students of high financial need scholarships to study or intern abroad, who have come from over 1,100 U.S. institutions and gone to 135 countries around the world. For a comprehensive listing of scholarships and funding, contact the CIP office or check out IIE Passport’s Study Abroad Funding site.
"Studying abroad will delay graduation."
If students plan ahead and make sure their credits transfer, there’s no reason graduation will be delayed.
"Potential employers don’t value study abroad. "
Employers increasingly want employees who can work cross-culturally and speak another language. Study abroad is one of the best ways (often the only way) for students to acquire marketable international qualifications, cross-cultural competency and proficiency in a second language. In addition to valuing the soft skills acquired while spending time abroad, employers want workers who can collaborate with others around the world. But just listing study abroad on a resume or in a cover letter won’t cut it. Students must package their study abroad experience in a way that showcases what they’ve learned. Organizations will want to know what an applicant did and learned while abroad – and how that experience can be brought to bear on the job.
"It is not possible to complete major requirements while abroad."
Many students are able to earn credit toward their major while studying abroad. Regulations vary by college, major and individual curriculum. With a large variety of programs, there may be one or several programs that provide courses that fulfill requirements in a specific major or curriculum. If you have questions, please speak with your academic advisor in your department and a knowledgeable CIP staff member.
"I’m a double major; I don’t have time to go abroad."
Before ruling it out altogether, please come see us at the Center for International Programs, and bring your major(s) worksheet. We may be able to help you find a program that meets all of your academic needs so that you can still graduate on time!
"It is necessary to speak a second language to study abroad."
While some programs do have a language requirement, many programs are taught exclusively in English. You can search for these programs using the "Advanced Search" feature on the CIP portal. In addition, the majority of SJU’s Study Tours and Summer Programs are taught in English.
"Study abroad is only for __________ majors."
All subjects can be taught through a global lens. Study abroad is for all majors, and students in every field will benefit from a global experience. Historically, most programs embraced the humanities, but today only 3.6 percent of students who study abroad major in the humanities. In fact, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students represent the largest group of students studying abroad, according to the 2018 Open Doors report. Want to hear from other students in your major who studied abroad? Check out the SJU Outcomes website.