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Opinion: Study abroad expands your horizons

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Pascal Albright | The Daily Wildcat

Tables feature various study abroad programs during the University of Arizona's 2017 Study Abroad Fair at the Student Union Memorial Center. Study abroad opportunities are educational experiences most all students would benefit from and can be made affordable despite sometimes daunting costs.

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Being able to go to a new country, with a group of people all about the same age, can be life changing. 

Going to countries in Europe or South America to study can make traveling more affordable. Most parents don’t want to spend thousands of dollars to send their kid to Europe for the summer when they’re already paying tuition. However, when they find out credits will be earned toward the degree they’re paying for, suddenly they’re on board. 

The University of Arizona offers a wide range of options for studying abroad. Students can travel to Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia — to just about anywhere — during the fall, spring and even summer semesters.

There are a variety of options between the many programs. For example, the Spanish minor study abroad offers programs in three different Spanish cities; the summer programs are in Brazil and Costa Rica, while Viña del Mar in Chile is available during all three semesters.

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For most of these programs, students stay with a family and can fully immerse themselves in the language and culture. Students who have gone to these countries through the Spanish minor program have gone across the world knowing no one and having little experience speaking Spanish, but often come home fluent and with their best friends.

Going to Australia can be one of the most exciting adventures a student can have in college. Australia has such diverse wildlife on display, and with the Great Barrier Reef dying out, it's important to go sooner rather than later. My cousin went to Australia through the UA and subsequently met her now-husband. The experiences that happen during a study abroad trip can last a lifetime. 

Because the UA has so many different options when it comes to studying abroad, it can be daunting trying to figure out which is the best program. There is a search tool on the UA's study abroad website that allows students to select the region they wish to explore in conjunction with their field of study to help narrow down the options. There are also study abroad advisers that are knowledgeable of the programs and can walk students through selection. 

Some programs are offered through the UA and others through a third-party provider. The Center for Educational Access, a UA-affiliated third-party provider, offers a lot of programs for students. UA programs are often faculty led and require students to live in homes with local people. CEA programs allow students the option of choosing between a home stay or an apartment. Going abroad with CEA can require more work for the student in terms of getting credits to transfer, and is also less likely to have UA scholarships available.

RELATED: Brazil Studies program promotes a global understanding of culture on campus

Studying abroad can be quite costly, but looking through Scholarship Universe or talking to an adviser can help bring the costs down. If a student already receives financial aid, that aid can be applied to their study abroad program. Loans can also be taken out for study abroad programs. While it may for some seem impossible, studying abroad actually can be affordable, and because it is such a special experience, the college tries its best to keep costs reasonable for students. It’s important for students to look into scholarships early to figure out what they can qualify for and how they can begin applying to save the most money.

Studying abroad is one of the best experiences a college student can have. Traveling with peers who share common life experiences and getting credits towards graduation at the same time are two things that motivate students to go abroad. Don't let money discourage you from looking into this kind of learning experience; there are always a wide variety of options and financial aid resources available to make sure everyone can enjoy their college experience to the fullest.


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