Studying abroad can offer students exciting opportunities to explore the world without falling behind in their education, according to University of Indianapolis Study Abroad Advisor Julie Kiefer. She said traveling while in school is not as intimidating as it may seem at first. She said that many students believe that their major or financial issues will hold them back, but she is confident that there is a program for everyone.
“Do not let the money get to you,” Kiefer said. “Don’t let your money or your major get in the way of your studying abroad. It’s a big misconception that people say, ‘I can’t study abroad because it’s too expensive, or my major won’t let me do it.’ Well, anybody can study abroad regardless of major and if you come in, we’ll find a way to pay for it.”
Kiefer said that she was able to fund her travels to all seven continents and 42 countries without the help of her parents. She said that as a result of her travels, many doors were opened and opportunities granted to her. She believes that when students study abroad, they have something special that makes them stand out.
“I studied abroad as a student here,” Kiefer said. “I am a UIndy alum. If you take away this job, because it is an obvious job, every job I got was a result of studying abroad. It makes you stand out; on your resume, it helps you stand out. It makes you a more worldly person. It makes you stand out amongst your peers. Lots of people have a 4.0 and graduate from good colleges. Only 1 percent of the college population studies abroad. Well, now the national average is 1.5 percent. Here at UIndy we have 5 percent of our college students study abroad.”
Among UIndy students, some of the most popular and affordable destinations are Spain, England, Costa Rica, Prague and Ireland, according to Kiefer. Currently, the study abroad office is able to automatically give students travel grants of $400 for summer trips and $500 for semester trips. She also wants students to know that study abroad trips fulfill both the Local/Global Communities/Theoretical and Experiential credits.
Junior communication major Quiaira Johnson spent a semester traveling to 11 different countries with Semester at Sea. During her voyage, she spent time in London, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Spain, Brazil, Senegal, Morocco, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Panama Canal.
“For me, it was something that I always wanted to do,” Johnson said. “It was just a timing thing. You know how when you’ve been in school for so long and you need a break? I wanted to experience something new. I am already graduating a semester early, and not a lot of people do it either.”
For her Semester at Sea, Johnson attended classes on the ship and spent about five or six days in each country.
“While I was on the ship — the duration of how long it took to get to the next destination — I had classes,” Johnson said. “I did take classes; I had a full course load of classes. Each class, while we were learning the core material, they geared their material also toward the country we were going to be in. It was [learning through] application for every class that I took. It was real-life experience and really learning how it is to be in different environments, how to adapt in such little time.”
One of her favorite parts of the experience was the solitude.
“For me, it was definitely the isolation,” Johnson said. “It kind of forced me out of my comfort zone, because I was the only student from UIndy on the voyage. It was like freshman year all over again, how you had to start over. No social media, no Internet, no texting and [you] really get to know people. There were people I got to know more just because of that.”
Johnson believes that she has gained cultural awareness as a result of her travels, in addition to the material that she learned in her classes.
“I am now more culturally aware of things and sensitive to my approaches to different culture,” Johnson said. “I’m more aware of a lot of things. I am still adjusting. It’s actually really hard. I guess it varies for different people. I don’t think they emphasize enough how reentry into society is. It’s really tough. I guess it varies for different people, but for me, because of the different experiences that I’ve had while being gone and then coming back and trying to get into a regular routine again [it] is just really, really hard.”
Despite adjusting to life back on campus, Johnson encourages everyone to travel and study abroad.
“If you have just a little thought of doing it, just do it,” Johnson said. “Those experiences are experiences you won’t get from a traditional college experience. Not only will it make you better for marketing purposes, it really challenges you and opens your eyes to a lot of things that you would probably never really think about. So if you have that thought, just go for it. And if it is meant to be, it will work out.”
Kiefer encourages any student considering a spring term, summer or semester trip to stop by her office, so she can give him or her information and answer any questions.
“Utilize the study abroad office,” Johnson said. “It is there for a reason. When I first went, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to go. She [Kiefer] gave me a bunch of ideas of places that she thought I would like.”
International Division can be found in the Schwitzer Student Center 211.