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Studying abroad is a popular program at UNCA, but is it affordable for everybody?

UNCA students gather during a summer study abroad trip to Berlin. Photo courtesy of Regine Criser.
UNCA students gather during a summer study abroad trip to Berlin. Photo courtesy of Regine Criser.

Karen Lopez
News Staff Writer
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Diane Royer, the University Study Abroad Program specialist, said UNCA does not offer scholarships to study abroad.
Students can obtain and use all of their financial aid federal grants, obtain scholarships from the Study Abroad office and other departments. Students are responsible for flight tickets, food and other personal expenses.
“Studying abroad is worth it because you’re getting classes out of the way, but it can be expensive,” said Kayli Nichols, a junior German and political science student.
Nichols said she studied abroad this summer in Berlin, Germany with a faculty-led program.
“It was amazing going in a group setting,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s a great experience to go with UNCA faculty, especially if you don’t know the language.”
During and after the study abroad program, Nichols said she had the opportunity to travel to nearby cities and countries.
“I went to Paris and Amsterdam by myself,” she said. “You realize who you are as a person because you have to figure everything out by yourself in a foreign country, but at the same time you can only do that for so long until you want to share those experiences with other students.”
Cara Gilpin, the assistant director of the Study Abroad Office at UNCA, said all students should experience studying abroad as they will learn skills such as adaptability, cultural sensitivity and flexibility. Students who  take faculty led programs can take UNCA courses and obtain credit for them.
“Having an exposure to another country gives students a better sense of self,” said Gilpin, a 40-year-old Asheville resident.
Both Gilpin and Royer said an application, references and a personal essay are required. There can be a few competitive programs, but the Study Abroad Office helps students who need and want help.
“There are applications students have to submit to be accepted into the programs,” Royer said. “The Studying Abroad Programs have changed and are more accessible than they used to be.”
Jinhua Li, assistant professor of international studies, said students should consider studying abroad. It gives students unique opportunities to explore parts of the world and develop critical thinking skills and enhance intercultural communication competency.
Li, the faculty leader of the Chinese summer study abroad program, said students benefit from study abroad as they become global-minded citizens, develop problem solving skills and critical thinking skills and gain a more profound understanding of cultural diversity while developing intercultural competency.
“I don’t believe in barriers in the sense that they prevent students from studying abroad, but I would definitely use caution and common sense and research carefully before choosing a study abroad program,” Li said.
The Asheville resident said faculty-led programs have unique advantages other study abroad programs may lack. The academic focus and curriculum of faculty-led programs are consistent with students coursework and research interests, which maximize the educational aspects of the program.
“Students tend to develop a rapport with faculty leaders who are often expert on the regions of the programs, which help them become better acclimated to a foreign environment,” Li said. “Students can communicate with the faculty members frequently and obtain timely responses, which help them succeed in a foreign environment.”
Students shift their perspective from global to global and they bring that perspective back with with them, Gilpin said.
“Your experiences in a different culture will serve you regardless of what you do after graduation. Depending on the program that you take, you can even enhance language skills in other languages. Don’t waste the opportunity,” Gilpin said.
There will be a Study Abroad Fair on Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Alumni Hall, Highsmith Union.

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