Students positively affected by study abroad experiences

By Elizabeth Valenzuela – Staff Writer – evalenzu@unca.edu

According to students and faculty, UNC Asheville offers a notable study abroad opportunity, including countless destinations and programs.

Both Bonnie Parker, director of study abroad and Diane Royer, administrative assistant, laughed while reminiscing the return of students from their study abroad experiences.

“You know they’ll cut their hair or have new clothes,” Parker said.

She also said some students are almost unrecognizable.

UNCA offers several exchange programs lasting either one semester or one complete academic year. With a long list of destinations to choose from, Europe quickly rose to the most visited among students.

However, Melissa Gore, a senior at UNCA, said she chose to venture away from this most popular destination and decided to study at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

“I’m most looking forward to getting involved with the university’s wildlife sanctuary,” said Gore. “The indigenous flora and fauna are fascinating.”

Gore said she plans on spending just one semester abroad.

According to Parker and Royer, it can sometimes be hard for students to spend an entire year abroad due to requirements in their major. Limitations for athletes also make a one-year terms almost impossible.

According to Parker, a common concern among students wanting to study abroad relates to graduation deadlines.

“It’s a myth that studying abroad will delay students from graduating on time,” said Parker.  “It takes careful planning ahead of time.”

Gore said she left last weekend for her study abroad experience as a conservation biology and restoration student during her time in Australia.

In addition to the study abroad programs, UNCA also offers faculty-led programs. These programs tend to be offered during the spring, winter and summer breaks, lasting about three to six weeks.

This summer, UNCA hosts faculty led programs to England, Germany, Italy, China and Ghana.

Statistics taken from the study abroad staff shows the number of students who study abroad each year increased 4 percent within the past five years with close to 200 students studying abroad last year.

Parker and Royer said they agree these numbers increased due to the peaked interest in global awareness and desire.

According to Parker, it is very rare for a student to return early from a study abroad experience.

“Only one time a student who was supposed to study abroad for a year only studied for one semester because of at-home ties,” said Parker.

In order to be qualified to study abroad, students must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher and must complete at least two semesters at UNCA before studying abroad.

Students do not have to be fluent in the language of the country they choose to study in and the cost of this opportunity is not extremely high. Studying abroad approximately costs the same as attending UNCA, excluding travel and personal expenses.

Parker and Royer said they agree that they have seen students return with higher self-confidence and independence.

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