Will you study abroad? Breaking down the costs, the programs and the benefits

Will you study abroad? Breaking down the costs, the programs and the benefits

To many, simply moving away to attend a four-year university a few hours away from home is a hard step. But imagine if the university was more than two or three hours away—it’s in a different country, surrounded by a different culture thousands of miles from where you call home.

This thought, while scary to many, is what drives the study abroad program at Michigan State University, and fuels the education of nearly 3,000 study abroad students.

And the trend of studying abroad is growing.

Study Abroad

Students in Prague on the Photo Communication study abroad, a co-sponsored trip through the College of Communication Arts and Sciences

According to the Institute of International Education Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, 270,604 U.S. students studied abroad for credit during the academic year 2009/10, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year. 

MSU offers study abroad programs in over 60 countries and all seven continents. More than 300 academic programs are available in majors such as education, health, physical sciences and business.

“Our study abroad program is one of the biggest in the country,” said Cheryl Benner, communications manager at the office of study abroad. “Popularity of each individual academic program varies, but some of the popular destinations include Australia, Ireland, and Italy because they are mostly English speaking.”

Getting involved in the study abroad program is easy and can be started at any time. Many students utilize the Freshman Seminar Abroad program in order to get a short study abroad experience before starting their freshman year.

According to the office of study abroad’s website, the FSA is intended to help with the college transition, and includes several days of on-campus, pre departure orientation, followed by a two week group travel abroad. Over 50 percent of FSA participants will study abroad again.

“I went on a two week Freshman Seminar to New Zealand and earned two credits in ethics,” said MSU junior Michael Keller. “After that trip, I was hooked.”

Keller has been on three study abroad trips since starting his education at MSU—his trip to New Zealand, plus trips to Ecuador and Turkey. Despite common speculation, being fluent in the language of the country you are visiting is not often a requirement, and even with the language barrier, most students still learn a vast amount about culture and communication.

“I loved being able to learn more about the world and how to communicate,” Keller said. “I recommend study abroad to everyone.”

Other Study Abroad programs besides FSA include co-sponsored programs, which involve the student enrolling at a host institution, and faculty-led programs in which an MSU program leader coordinates all academic and administrative arrangements. Co-sponsored trips are recommended for those who have a high level of independence and want a longer abroad experience since they are often semester or year-long trips. Faculty-led programs are better suited for those wanting more guidance, and a shorter trip—some trips only lasting a few weeks in duration.

Many students rule themselves out as possible study abroad candidates because of financial reasons, but about 72 percent of study abroad participants receive financial assistance. There are several different ways to finance a trip, including financial aid, which makes study abroad affordable for almost any MSU student.

“Most students don?t know that they can use their financial aid for a study abroad program,” Benner said. “Along with that financial aid, there are several different scholarships offered and opportunities for internships while abroad, all of which can be found on the study abroad website.”

Costs for each trip and program vary, but often times study abroad trips end up costing less than living on campus. Study abroad advisors recommend comparing costs of living from MSU to whatever the desired location is before ruling it out as unaffordable, but plan on a few primary expenses. Some of these expenses include a $100 application fee, a $200 acceptance fee, passport/visa costs, and immunizations costs.

“Study abroad offers so many educational benefits,” Benner said. “Every student will come back with a different skill set and a sense of confidence. I have never had a student regret their decision to study abroad.”

To learn more about the study abroad program at MSU, or to start the application process, more information can be found on their website, and in room 109 in the International Center.

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Avoiding the dreaded Freshman 15

Avoiding the dreaded Freshman 15

Everyone has heard of the “Freshman 15.”

Those 15 unwanted pounds seem inevitable to new college students. With pizza and ice cream seemingly around every corner in the cafeterias, it may seem that there is no way to avoid weight gain.  But never fear—with basic nutrition knowledge and a little will power, not everyone has to fall victim to the extra pounds.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of obese children from ages 6-11 has increased by 11 percent during the past 30 years, while the percentage of obese adolescents ages 12-19 has risen 13 percent. These higher rates are accompanied by increased risks of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Although students above age 19 are not included under this statistic, the habits that cause obesity in the younger ages are usually carried into adulthood.

“Eating habits aren’t a primary focus during our adolescence, and adopting these habits are tough, especially in the college atmosphere,” said dietetics senior Joann Bahri.

“So in my opinion, a big reason for overweight young adults is a lack of nutritional knowledge and healthy eating habits, which should have been instilled during adolescence,” she said.

This is not to say that there is no hope for those who were not healthy eaters growing up. A simple change of bad habits can reverse damage already done and prevent future obesity problems that will grow worse into adulthood.

One bad habit on the list to crack is poor sleeping.

“Sleep deprivation leads to energy deprivation,” said Bahri. “A strategy to overcome this lack of energy usually involves a high intake of caffeine and sugar to jolt us into motion. Another factor is hormones. Without a sufficient amount of sleep, ghrelin levels are high, which cause us to eat more.”

Because a lack of sleep can cause overeating, correcting bad sleeping habits should be the first priority. Eight to 10 hours per night will help increase energy and decrease unwanted overeating, setting you up for good choices the rest of the day.

The next bad habit to fix is the actual eating itself. Bahri suggests that planning is the key to doing so.

“Having healthy meals prepared ahead of time negates numerous excuses for not eating healthy.” Bahri said.

Having meals prepared can allow you to portion your food intake and evaluate the food groups you are consuming.

For students living off campus, planning ahead is a viable option. For the majority of students who live on campus and eat in the dining halls, doing this seems nearly impossible. Students are forced to make food decisions on the spot, when both bad and good options are present.

salad

Salads are a healthy option offered at any cafeteria

“I don’t think it’s easy to eat well on campus,” said dining hall worker Amanda Cramer. “I think there are too many unhealthy options that don’t outweigh the good.”

The truth is, there are an equal amount of unhealthy and healthy choices. Temptation, though, is where the problems start.

“There are a lot of healthy food choices in almost all the venues on campus but there are also a lot of unhealthy and appetizing choices as well,” said Bahri. “But sometimes it’s hard to resist the candy bar and opt for an apple.”

To help with this difficulty, and to make planning ahead a more realistic option, MSU has a few tools that can be used. MSUtrition on the EatAtState website offers students a daily food tracker to evaluate eaten calories. It also lists the nutritional values of food items within the cafeteria and around campus.

So while venturing into the realm of healthy eating, remember—half is knowledge and the other half is how you take that knowledge and use it to better yourself.

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