SMU study abroad program offers cultural opportunities
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2013 19:02
One SMU student had a daily schedule others would be jealous of.
During the spring semester of her sophomore year, Elisa Farrell enjoyed morning runs through scenic hills, community service opportunities, trips to the beach in between classes and unique courses like Aboriginal history.
Every day of her semester abroad in Australia offered a new experience.
“I had only travelled by myself, without my family, once before,” Farrell said. “That was really awesome, but not even close to the same scale as being on the other side of the world for six months. Every day was different.”
Every year, approximately 550 SMU students take the opportunity to earn academic credit and enrich their global awareness by immersing themselves in the culture of a foreign country.
SMU boasts 148 programs in 50 different countries.
SMU began offering students the chance to study abroad in 1969, with SMU-in-Spain being the first program.
It now offers academic year, semester, summer and winter programs as well as course study tours.
According to Nancy Simmons, Interim Director of Education Abroad, countries in Europe are where most students flock.
“Students generally go to Europe because they know more about it and are more comfortable living there. Expense is something they consider as well – the farther you go, airfare is more expensive,” Simmons said. “But [students] are branching out now that we have more programs.”
Simmons said students tend to choose programs that will allow them to meet some requirements for their majors or minors or even just to gain elective credits.
Farrell, a management major, said finding a program that would match her academic requirements was easy, but sophomore Sandra Saenz had to do some research.
Saenz is majoring in math, political science and world languages and is in the process of applying to the SMU-in-South of France summer program in order to get ahead in her French credits.
“I actually was supposed to go abroad last semester but I was in a different major, so it was difficult because of the credits,” Saenz said.
“I would love to have the opportunity to do a whole semester but because of my majors, it’s really difficult to get the credits, especially for math and sciences. The summer program in France actually counts toward what I’m studying.”
Both Saenz and Farrell believe the process of applying for the study abroad programs is smooth and effective.
Students interested in studying abroad must fill out an online application, meet a certain grade point average, submit professor recommendation letters and go through an interview process. Simmons said most of the students who apply are accepted.
If a student is receiving financial aid at SMU, it will also count toward study abroad. Simmons said students need to get in touch with the financial aid office in order to work out arrangements with them.
Farrell, a President’s Scholar, said her scholarship paid for tuition expenses for her study abroad in Australia as well as last year’s SMU-in-London summer program.
With application due dates fast approaching, the SMU Abroad office has been busy organizing events and information sessions to encourage students to participate in the programs.
“The best part of my job is that I get to see the ‘before and after’ with students and sometimes I’ll see a totally different person,” Simmons said.
“They become world travelers; they become more confident in themselves. I think students become citizens of the world after studying abroad.”
For Farrell, who returned to the Hilltop before the start of her junior year, the time she spent abroad was one of the best experiences she had through SMU.
“This is the best time in your life to travel because after graduation, you’re going to have a job. Your job isn’t going to let you take off and go away for six months,” Farrell said.
“SMU makes the process so easy. I’ve picked up elements from different cultures and I feel kind of worldly now because I have all these experiences.”