The Daily Gamecock

Study Abroad sees increased enrollment

Travel scholarships, applications rise after 2008 recession


A sluggish economic recovery hasn’t kept a number of USC students from pursuing Study Abroad opportunities, as most who plan to travel next spring or summer are currently either in the acceptance or late application phases of their preparation.

USC saw a dip in Study Abroad enrollment in the 2008-09 school year due to the recession, according to Jennifer Engel, the director of the Study Abroad Office, but the numbers have increased every year since then.

“Last year we had a 13.5-percent increase over the last year’s number of students,” Engel said.

Total travel scholarships awarded to students also increased last year to $604,260, which is up 3 percent from the previous academic year’s $588,750. A variety of financial grants and aid are available to students, including USC Passport Travel Grants and USC Beyond Boundaries Awards, which together account for 47 percent of all Study Abroad financial aid awarded.

Depending on the program, fees for Study Abroad programs may be paid directly to USC, to the host institution or to the exchange program.

“Students can take pretty much all of their financial aid that they get here on campus and use it for studying abroad, as long as they come through our office,” Engel said.

The cost of education abroad depends on multiple factors, including the program type, length and location. The average Maymester trip runs about $3,500, Engel said, and semester programs vary widely in cost.

“There are a lot of programs that are comparable to staying here on campus for a year,” Engel said. “There are many countries where you could go and study for less than what it would cost here.”

The estimated cost to attend the USC Global Exchange with the University of Bamberg in Germany, for instance, is between $7,359 and $7,974, which includes tuition, housing and meals per semester, according to the Study Abroad Office website. Those fees fall below the estimated cost for a typical semester at USC, which averages between $8,686 and $10,401. Other programs in a variety of countries appear to be comparably priced.

On the flip side, a semester planned by CIEE, a nonprofit international education group, at Freie Universität in Berlin, which includes tuition, housing, advising, orientation, excursions and airport pickup service, runs between $16,450 and $17,950.

Fourth-year German student Jaris Dykas will be studying in Germany through the Bamberg exchange in the spring. Program cost, she said, was a large factor for her as she made her decision.

“It’s the cheapest because it’s with USC,” Dykas said. “Now cost is not going to be a big factor because it’s just paying the same as tuition. You still get your scholarships, and it’s still in-state (tuition) ... and room and board (in Germany) is usually cheaper than room and board here, so you actually end up paying less, except for travel expenses.”

Fourth-year international business and accounting student Steven Kanczewski has studied in both Chile and Spain through exchange programs sponsored by USC and the University of Georgia.

He noted the differences in exchange rates and costs of living in both locations as factors when he decided when and for how long he scheduled his studies.

“I would say the best answer moving forward is that when people are making decisions between Europe versus, let’s say, Latin America, they might evaluate the historic average strength of the euro, because the euro can still be more of a deterrent than the Latin American currencies,” Kanczewski said.

One key to a successful study abroad experience, both Engel and Kanczewski said, is to plan ahead adequately.

Engel recommended students visit the Study Abroad Office six to nine months before they plan to travel to begin exploring their options.

“I knew going into Chile that I really wanted to perfect my Spanish and challenge myself,” Kanczewski said. “Be organized and be prepared. Know the deadlines and the timetables set by the Study Abroad Office so that you go into it with as little stress as possible.

“And then you really live through an adventure. And know that when you study abroad, especially for a full semester ... that there are peaks and valleys. There are some days when you’re on cloud nine, and you’re just loving it. And there are other days that are frustrating, but the composite experience is what helps you grow as a person and change you for the better before you come back.”

Study Abroad enrollment rose from 984 students in 2010-11 to 1,117 in 2011-12, according to statistics from the 2011-12 academic year Study Abroad report. The Maymester and summer terms accounted for the majority of those participants (573) followed by the spring semester (261).

Undergraduate students earned an estimated 9,477 credit hours abroad last year. Third-year students were the best represented, with 536 participants.

International business and marketing were the most highly represented majors abroad, with 237 and 124 students, respectively.

Students studied in a total of 58 foreign countries last year. England was the most popular destination, drawing 150 students, followed by Spain (137), Italy (120), China (96) and Germany (58).