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Education abroad is a leap of faith at Texas State

With a variety of programs offered throughout the year, Texas State University’s Education Abroad has destinations on almost every continent. Applications for the most popular, and often more affordable, type of program, summer faculty-led, close in February, and now is a time when many professors actively recruit students to their programs.

The idea of traveling abroad can be daunting for students, said Laura Ellis-Lai, an English professor who co-leads the London-Cambridge program. However, Texas State has a few ways to make the trips more accessible for students.

“The way the programs are designed makes travel more affordable, with students still getting all those credits,” said Ellis-Lai. The shorter trips help keep costs for food and lodging down and is a way for students to fully immerse themselves in another culture “without experiencing too much painful culture shock.”https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F1684044579&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&color=ff5500

Anyone with open electives can participate in education abroad at Texas State, though there are a few exceptions such as freshmen in their first semester and seniors in their final semester.

While trips are separated by major, many accept applicants who are non-majors, allowing students to participate in programs that fit their academic needs while also pursuing programs they’re passionate about. Gilbert Martinez, a journalism professor who co-leads the Tokyo and Kyoto trip said that even though his program is designed for journalism and mass comm majors, anyone interested in developing their writing and multimedia skills is encouraged to apply.

Another barrier that keeps students from applying is cost, said Ellis-Lai. From tuition to plane tickets to the application fee, participating in a study abroad trip can cost upwards of $5000 for two-week trips.

“Not all students use financial aid but those that do cannot participate in this program if they don’t have the open hours in their degree plan,” said Martinez. While there are a variety of grade levels represented in the program, he said the main factor in determining eligibility is whether or not a student has 6 elective hours for their degree.

“There are resources available and payment plans,” said Manon Bowen, the program coordinator of education abroad at Texas State. “One thing that is very important is that financial aid goes towards education abroad and any scholarships as well,” said Bowen. One scholarship in particular, the International Education Fee (IEF) scholarship, opens after the deadline for applications is due.

“You kind of apply in reverse,” said Ellis-Lai. “You apply to a study abroad program, and then you can apply to this scholarship – it’s a kind of a leap of faith.” While an application must be submitted before applying to IEF and similar scholarships, being accepted into a program is not a requirement for applying to these scholarships.

The academic workload is another factor that keeps potential applicants from applying, said Bowen.

Being in a new country, as well as normal stressors from taking courses feels overwhelming at times, said Trinitee Andrews, an English major who spent 3 weeks studying abroad in Italy in the summer of 2023.

“Our workload was a lot more than expected,” said Andrews. She said taking Italian 1 and 2 in just 3 weeks meant her schedule was packed with classes and homework on top of mandatory outings. “It was still school, everything was packed. But it was worth it.”

One way Texas State aims to support students throughout their education abroad journey, said Bowen, is through mental health resources available before and during programs. During the post-decision process, all students participating in study abroad get connected with resources such as counseling and resource guides they have access to while abroad.

Study abroad “really works well for students who have a spirit of adventure,” said Martinez. His program, like all the education abroad opportunities at Texas State, is not a leisurely trip, with students developing multimedia and writing skills to create content throughout the trip.

“We work, hard, it’s not vacation, as my students will tell you,” Martinez said of the heavy workload. “That’s how we developed the program, for students to develop their skills, to build their portfolio, but also have fun along the way too.” Along with university resources, professors and peers are there to create a safe space for students to accomplish their academic goals while abroad.

“My advice is to make the step and go,” said Bowen. She said her time studying abroad was invaluable for her both personally and academically, and encourages students to reach out to the education abroad office for support applying to and finding resources for studying abroad.

“We’re trying to make it the most accessible as possible,” said Bowen. “And we’re here to help you, so come see us.”

To learn more about faculty-led, exchange, affiliated and more education abroad programs at Texas State, as well as available resources for studying abroad, visit the education abroad website, or the study abroad office located at Thornton International House.

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