Students Plan a Way Out

Over 30 percent of UVM students study abroad during their time at the University – according to UVM Internation-al Education director Linda Damon, compared with just 11 percent nationally. While that percentage in-cludes short-term and summer programs as well as semester or year-long programs, Damon says the reason for the discrep-ancy is the breadth of options available to UVM students. Additionally, new UVM-run programs such as the one in Belize make it easier than ever for students to study abroad, including over 700 students in the 2005-2006 academic year. These options were on full display Wednesday at the Study Abroad Fair as a multitude of flags adorned the columns of Billings student center, and over 30 tables displaying study abroad options from Honduras to Hong Kong. “Several of the vendors actually had to go back out to their cars to get more informa-tion packets because students were requesting so many,” Da-mon said. She attributes the ex-citement of students to the plethora of advantages that come with studying in another country, including having a stronger resume for jobs and graduate programs as well as gaining realworld experience. “If I’m an animal science major and I go to Latin Ameri-ca to work at a wildlife reserve for a semester, I’m going to have a much stronger resume when applying for vet school,” Damon said. There has been a small de-cline in the number of students that are opting to study in tra-ditional places such as Western Europe and Australia. This waning, Damon explained, is due to the weakness of the dol-lar against many foreign cur-rencies. Europe is still very popular because of “its size, which al-lows students to see many dif-ferent cultures in a short time span,” Damon said, “but many students have already been to Europe with their families.” However this decline has been met by an increase in stu-dents traveling to Africa, Asia and South America. The difficulty that comes with traveling to these exotic locations as well as a sense of “if not now, never” are two rea-sons many students choose to do so through a study-abroad program. Additionally, they are at-tractive to students because of how far the dollar goes in these less-developed continents. UVM junior Nat Koloc vis-ited Tanzania, Africa for the spring semester of 2006, “I wanted to go to Tanzania be-cause it seemed different to me, and as an ecology major, the location was ideal, with such unique scenery that of-fered a lot of interesting expe-riences,” he said. Damon maintains that while it is a concern, anti-American sentiment is not a problem for students and is not deterring them from studying abroad. “We had one student dur-ing our pre-departure meeting tell us that he told people that he was Canadian to avoid any potential problems,” Damon added. In the end, Damon believes that the strongest case for studying abroad is that this is an era of globalization and students should be concerned with how prepared they are for a new kind of international workplace. “Students need practice in making themselves comfort-able in uncomfortable or for-eign locations.”