UNC Greensboro study abroad students on their life-changing experiences
Possible. Affordable. For me. When UNC Greensboro students hear “study abroad,” that’s what their fellow students who have taken time abroad want them to think of next.
“Everybody needs to go abroad,” says Brianna Rucker. The double major in liberal and interdisciplinary studies and anthropology spent Spring 2023 at Okayama University in Japan. “Being in one country your entire life limits how much perspective you have on the world, people, culture, on everything. Studying abroad allowed me to go to Japan, live with people in that country, and find community and a home there.”
For many, studying abroad will be the first time they leave the country, and for 45 percent of students, it’s the first time they set foot on a plane. The perspective it gives them is invaluable.
“You become a different person afterward, you have this whole international view, and it can help you with your career and professional development,” Jessica Williams says. She’s majoring in international business and marketing and her abroad experience in Seoul, South Korea helped her earn credits while gaining international experience.
“Every student at UNCG has the ability to study abroad,” says Derek Bradley, associate director of the International Programs Center. “We are number one in North Carolina for providing social mobility and creating access to opportunity for our students. Study abroad is one way we elevate our students with experience that will impact their lives and careers.”
During the 2022-2023 school year, UNCG awarded students $137,350 in travel grants. In addition, 21 students received the Benjamin A. Gilman Award for a collective $85,500 in study abroad scholarships. According to statistics gathered since the scholarship’s inception, UNCG students have received over 171 Gilman Scholarships – the most for any school in North Carolina.
The exchange programs, which may last a semester or a year, allow students to pay UNCG tuition and fees and use their full financial aid package while they study abroad at partner universities abroad. 90 percent of UNCG students studying abroad for a semester or a year do so through an exchange program. More than 40 percent of the participants in UNCG’s study abroad programs are Pell Grant recipients.
“The cost to study abroad is the same cost you would pay to study at UNCG, depending on what country you go to,” Rucker says. “The International Programs Office helped me get past the fear of the cost and understand studying abroad wouldn’t impact my family’s finances at all. Once I got over those fears, I knew this was something I wanted to do.”
Go For It
Study abroad participants are nearly unanimous in recommending the experience to their fellow students.
“I can’t tell you how much I’ve changed as a person,” says Maddie Edwards, a human development and family studies major who studied at the University of Oulu in Finland in Spring 2023. “I know more about myself and feel more confident to communicate with people from other backgrounds, not just abroad, but at home.”
The numbers related to studying abroad speak for themselves. Research shows that studying abroad results in greater social mobility, higher GPAs, higher graduation rates, increased employability, career skills, intercultural skills, and personal growth.
“If you’ve never been out of the states, and you have the opportunity to go out of the states, go,” says Williams. “You’ll meet amazing people, you learn their culture, and you might end up changing your fate.”
Story by Alice Manning Touchette
Video by David Lee Row
Photography and infographic courtesy of UNCG International Programs Center
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