University of Georgia Study, Work and Travel Abroad Fair celebrates 20th anniversary

Athens, Ga. – What can art education students learn by working with Cuban schoolchildren? What would forestry students learn in South Africa’s Kruger National Park? What can anthropology students get out of spending a semester in New Zealand? For answers to these questions and more, the University of Georgia Office of International Education (OIE) presents its 20th annual Study, Work and Travel Abroad Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the Georgia Hall of the Tate Center, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The fair has become one of the largest in the southeast with 1,833 students attending last year. Non-UGA students are also invited to attend. Programs offered through the university travel to 33 different countries, and other programs presented at the fair will include those offered through the University System of Georgia, other universities and private organizations.

“Study abroad programs may be found in nearly every conceivable course of study,” said Betsy Arrington-Tsao, a study abroad adviser. “We typically have had no trouble locating an appropriate program for the students. For non-UGA programs, we have made the process of getting credit quite easy for students who fill out the Credit Approval form. This form provides course equivalencies, facilitates the release of HOPE when appropriate and flags the students’ account so that the university is aware that they are studying abroad.”

The fair offers opportunities for students who want to work, intern and travel abroad as well. Some students simply work to cover expenses while traveling, while others want to live and work outside the United States for a longer term. Programs exist that help students prepare the necessary paperwork and find employment.

“Twenty years ago, study abroad was considered an option for wealthy students and language majors,” said Andrea Kiely, assistant director of the OIE. “Most programs were located in Europe and offered courses on a semester- or academic-year basis for students in their junior year. Now we see a much more diverse cross-section of the student body participating in study abroad. We are seeing more students go abroad any time after their freshman year. Study abroad has been embraced by faculty and the administration at UGA, and faculty have seen the benefits of study abroad in their students who return from overseas experiences.”

Incorporated into the university’s strategic plan is a goal to have 25 percent of each graduating class participate in a study abroad program by the year 2010.

“We feel we are well on our way to meeting that [25 percent] goal,” said Arrington-Tsao. “At present, we are sending 18 percent. During the 2002-03 school year, we had 1,441 students attend a study abroad program. We anticipate an increase of about 200 students over the previous year due to growth of existing programs and the success of new programs. The statistics we have go back to 1993, when 374 UGA students studied abroad.”

About 100 programs and affiliates are expected to present information about their programs at the fair. Representatives from the Office of Financial Aid and Study Abroad Scholarships will be on hand to show students options for paying for their international education.

Aside from the study abroad fair, UGA has been instrumental in increasing the number and variety of study abroad programs available to students, and programs have made positive changes in the communities they visit and study.

“UGA established an International Academic Program Development Fund, which provides seed grants to start new study abroad programs,” said Kiely. “This fund has been instrumental in the growth in study abroad programs at UGA – from 10 study abroad programs and 12 exchange partnerships in 1996-97 to 72 study abroad programs and 45 exchanges in 2003-04. UGA ranks 10th in the country for students who study abroad, and third for participation in short-term programs. As a result, we have been contacted by other universities seeking to develop their own programs.

“Some of our study abroad programs involve a service component that makes an impact on the local communities our students visit. One example is the service learning program for landscape architecture students who have developed plans for communities in Ghana. The university’s ownership of the Ecolodge in Costa Rica provides jobs and economic assistance to the communities surrounding San Luis. Finally, the Kenya Girl’s Education Fund, Inc., has been created by concerned students who have attended the Kenya Study Abroad Program.”

For more information, visit www.uga.edu/oie/fair.