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Study Abroad: All the difference for your student

One of the most enjoyable parts of my day begins when a student walks in asking about study abroad options. We talk about the student’s major and interest, and what he or she hopes to achieve overseas. After discussing a wide variety of educational experiences possible and the countries, languages, housing and cultural opportunities, the obvious question arises, “Can I afford to study abroad?”

For most students, the cost can be similar to studying on campus. Providing a definitive answer regarding costs during this first meeting becomes complex due to varied costs by program type and location. It becomes complicated further by the student’s scholarships and aid structure. So, after visiting the Study Abroad Office, your student can obtain more information by talking with a counselor in the financial aid office. Ultimately though, I think the best answer is, “You cannot afford not to study abroad.”

The poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost ends with the well-known line, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” The latest data show that fewer than 10 percent of undergraduate students study abroad. In the current economy, taking the road that few students travel can make the difference in preparation for a successful career.

By completing a study abroad experience, a student is set apart from their peers. The program in Costa Rica or France is often the first time the student, or perhaps anyone in their family, travels abroad. That they successfully navigate an international journey shows their initiative and planning skills. Immersing themselves in an unfamiliar culture shows adaptability and intercultural understanding that can’t be taught in a classroom. Learning Mandarin in China or Portuguese in Brazil not only improves mastery of important language skills, but also opens the door to opportunities in some of the fastest growing economies in the world. That the student is able to clearly show their competency with these skills through first-hand experience can make them stand out in a competitive environment.

When a student returns from an educational experience abroad, they return with friendships and professional contacts across the globe. Most importantly, though, they return with greater confidence and focus. They know their ability to forge a road less traveled – and that will make all the difference in their education at ONU and in their future careers.


Dr. Brian Keas, assistant vice president of academic affairs, coordinates the study abroad opportunities on the ONU campus.