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Work and patience can help students study abroad

Leaping across the ocean—to another world, to another way of talking, to another way of dressing and to another culture—seems so far away, but with some work, help and patience, students can study abroad.

Joy Navratil, student coordinator in the Global Studies Department, works with students who wish to study abroad. She points students in the right direction and shares mytefl reviews when they begin the long process of going to a foreign country.

The first step students must take is to meet with a program coordinator. Dan Albertson and Kristin Erber are the two program coordinators who help students that want to study for a semester or a year. Darin Stromstad is the program coordinator that works with students who are studying abroad during fall or spring break, on exploration seminars, and on May seminars.

“Students do not need to know where they want to go,” Navratil said. “The program coordinators are there for guidance.”

The process of studying abroad takes preparation. Students have to decide a year in advance for semester or yearlong trips. Short-term programs are decided less than a year in advance.

There are certain aspects in the planning process that require students to make decisions early on. When studying abroad for a semester or for a year, students apply early because there are deadlines that need to be met for Concordia as well as the cooperating universities, according to Angela Cant, the assistant director for budget and operations.

Students must also meet with programs coordinators to discuss traveling, their goals and the emotional aspect of living abroad.

Program coordinators walk through the application with students. Once students are accepted, coordinators work with advisors, the registrar and students in order to set up classes.

“We do a very mixed bag of advising,” Program Coordinator Kristen Erber said.

Students, who are studying abroad for a semester or a year, use the meetings to help them with the process. The program involves many faculty and staff members, which encourages collaborative interactions that prompt creativity and development.

Pre-departure orientation programs are meeting that are set with coordinators in order to talk about insurance, ways to stay safe, packing and finances.

“(It’s) the stuff your parents want to know about,” Erber said.

Meetings about cultural perspectives, the ups and downs of emotions also called the u-curve take place.

When students return, there is a dinner, allowing students to talk about their experiences. During reflection sessions, students learn about how the experience may have changed them, and how they can use that by putting it into words on a résumé and by continuing global learning opportunities, Erber said.

Applying, figuring out classes and attending meetings take up  a majority of the time before the airplane takes off.

The waiting process and not knowing is stressful, said Anna Saxon, who hopes to study abroad in Ireland during the spring of 2014. “It’s kind of like applying for college all over again,” Saxon said.

Classes must also be figured out so that students can effectively fit the courses into their degree.  Some classes are harder to take abroad than others, Cant said.

“It’s a big step. We don’t want students coming in at the last minute and thinking ‘Oh, I just want to go to Ireland next semester,’” Cant said. “We don’t want that being a quick decision. That’s part of the process… Even as freshman, start thinking about it.”

Transfer students and students with any major can study abroad. Coordinators are there to assist with finding a program that will fit your schedule, Erber said.

Collaboration between program coordinators, students, and faculty advisors make the process leading up to the trip successful.

“It’s a joint effort,” Navratil said.

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