Campus / News / Special Topics / Study Abroad / January 26, 2011

Study abroad applicants face first challenge: paperwork

To students who already have papers to write and tests to study for, the idea of adding a study abroad application to the to-do list is less than appealing, yet many students have taken on this task over the last few weeks.

“It’s a lot of paperwork,” sophomore Firas Suqi said. He plans to study abroad in Botswana and he found the hardest part to be collecting the necessary signatures.

The application includes a study plan of how your study abroad experience will fit into your Knox education, a personal essay, two faculty recommendations, a transcript and financial and medical forms, sophomore Moira Byrne explained.

Sophomore Molly Lenox, who plans to study abroad in Ireland, found the most difficult part to be prioritizing the application along with her other schoolwork.

Compared to other schools, Byrne said that Knox’s application was, “more in depth than some other applications.”

According to Michael Schneider, Professor of History and the Director of the Center for Global Studies, “it’s a complicated process because it’s a serious decision.”

The purpose of the extensive application is to make sure that students have a clear plan that will contribute to their education, Schneider said. The application is “designed to emphasize the importance of academics.”

“The main reason [for this emphasis] is the amount of money we put behind the whole enterprise,” Schneider said.

“I understand why they do it,” Lenox said, explaining that it’s their job to make sure students’ study abroad experiences are academically relevant.

Suqi said that finding a program related to their academic goals isn’t a problem for most students. “If you don’t find one from Knox or from ACM, [Associated Colleges of the Midwest], they do a good job of allowing you to explore other options” Suqi said.

Suqi found that the ACM Botswana program fit his interests in international development and environmental studies. “My academic interests correlate with the program’s concentrations…it was like a match made in heaven,” he said.

Lenox did not find a Knox program that fit her interests and is planning to go on a student initiated, not Knox affiliated, study abroad program in Ireland. She wanted to study Irish history and Knox does not offer a program in Ireland.

“As long as you have a good reason for going on a student- initiated program they don’t care if it’s student-initiated or not,” Lenox said. The college does ask that students applying for programs not affiliated with Knox write an additional essay explaining why they chose that program and what makes it credible.

Although study abroad experiences are required to be academic, they do not have to be related to a student’s major. Many students find themselves making decisions about study abroad at the same time they are deciding on their major, but as Schneider said, “they don’t have to be mutually reinforcing.” Many students choose a program related to their minor as well.

“It’s better to think of off -campus study as a part of your entire Knox educational plan, instead of only part of your major,” Schneider said.

However, Schneider added, students need to have the right preparation for the program they’re choosing and need to be able to graduate on time.

Schneider estimates that he asks 20-30 percent of students to reconsider their reasons for choosing the program they chose. He tries to approach students early if there will be a problem with their application.

The lengthy application process does not deter many students from studying abroad and Knox has a large number of students studying abroad; forty percent of students study abroad for at least one term, according to Schneider.

Despite all the effort she put into the application, Byrne expects that studying abroad will be worth it. “When you go abroad you gain a different perspective,” she said.

Gretchen Walljasper

Tags:  off-campus study study abroad

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