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Oct. 27, 2014

Study Abroad elevates student experiences

By Jaclyn Seymour

Study Abroad FairNow boarding flight 365 to engaged learning. Approximately 200 Cleveland State University students board their planes with luggage packed, passport in hand and the Cleveland skyline in the faint distance behind them every year.

Cleveland State’s Center for International Services and Programs hosted the 17th Annual Educational Abroad Fair Wednesday, Oct. 15 in the Main Classroom lobby.

“Every fall, we invite programs and departments and allies from the community to come to campus to present to CSU students and the CSU community about the international opportunities that they have to offer,” Julie Good, manager of Education Abroad, said. “In the past, we’ve had organizations like the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, yesterday [Wednesday, Oct. 15] the Peace Corps was there, then we had departments like Modern Languages and outside affiliates who we’ve partnered with to deliver study abroad opportunities.”

The annual fair is to help students learn and begin the process of studying abroad.

“It’s an opportunity for CSU students to talk to outside folks and not just [the Center for International Services] to learn what’s available,” Good said.
This year, the fair had 25 tables and a good student turnout, according to Mary Protzman, graduate assistant of Education Abroad. “It’s hard to calculate students because a lot of them come in from different entrances, but we had about 75 interest forms filled out saying that they were interested in studying abroad,” Protzman said.

According to her, this number was average, if not slightly above average.

“Compared to the stacks I have seen in previous years, I would say it is normal but maybe a little above normal,” she said.

Protzman, a Labor Relations and Human Resources graduate student, studied abroad during her undergraduate studies at Cleveland State while earning her bachelor’s degree in International Relations. Protzman was also earning a minor in French, which sparked her inspiration to travel and study in Normandy.

“I went on a faculty-led program with Dr. Tama Engelking,” Protzman explained. “There were about six or seven of us. We had a couple different field trips — we learned how to bake bread, we took classes from instructors that were in the country, my French teacher didn’t speak any English — so that was really interesting.”

With her International Relations major, studying abroad was expected but not required.

“I was an International Relations student, so it was in the nature of a Liberal Arts student, or in the nature of someone studying international politics, to want to go abroad,” Protzman said. “I had an International Business minor and a French minor, and that also begged for a study abroad program to supplement my education at Cleveland.”

Protzman described the most important aspect of her study abroad experience as the living situation.

“We lived with host families, which was probably the most important part of the experience,” Protzman explained. “We had to sort of sink or swim. You had to speak French to the family because a lot of our [host] families didn’t speak any English. So it was a really great experience in learning French and being immersed.”

According to Protzman, what students get out of their own study abroad experiences depends on what the student goes for.

“A lot of the time [the student goes for] academic enhancement,” she explained. “There are some classes that Cleveland State can’t offer that they can take at another university that’s regionally specific or maybe specific in a language. If a student wants to learn Dutch, for example, Cleveland State sometimes can’t offer these really specific classes that students are interested in taking.”

Good explained that studying abroad is important because it is a good opportunity for students to become more cultured by using the financial resources Cleveland State can help with.

“Majority of Cleveland State students are from the tri-county area,” Good explained. “Getting exposure to another culture and another way of teaching and learning is really a fundamental part of the undergraduate, liberal arts experience and really enhances the engaged learning that is already happening on this campus.”

This was the case for English graduate student Maria Alberto.

“I’d have to admit that it’s the experience of leaving the United States and actually observing and living within a completely different culture,” she said.

Cleveland State offers ranges of time a student can study abroad from one week to full, academic years, depending on where the student is at in their personal and academic development, according to Good.

Cleveland State also offers multiple types of programs students can apply for. First is the faculty-led programs, where a few students go with a professor, and they are typically shorter in length ranging from one to four weeks. Next, they offer an exchange semester with a sister university that Cleveland State has signed an exchange agreement with, and the university swaps students one-for-one. The final way to study abroad is to pick a program provider affiliated with Cleveland State that will assist students in all aspects (credits, financial aid, etc.) to get students accepted into the program.

The university currently has five active partner universities and sends an average of five students each year through the exchange-semester program.

“The benefit of that [exchange program] is students get to pay their CSU tuition but attend our partner university abroad,” Good said.
Alberto studied at the University of Sunderland in England in the exchange program that Cleveland State offers.

“As an English major, it was practically a given that I wanted to visit England,” Alberto said. “I never really expected that I would actually get to [study abroad], since even before the currency exchange rate travel and tuition would have been crippling, but CSU scholarships transfer to partner institutions.”

When students choose the option of partnering with an outside affiliate, the options for study abroad destinations open up widely.

“Those [program provider affiliates] range greatly,” Good explained. “They have options in Fiji, they have options in Siberia, they have options in South Africa, Chile — those programs are endless with the opportunities and the locations they travel.”

In order to study abroad, Cleveland State must approve the student, first, then the student must be accepted into the program that they would perfer (faculty led, exchange or program provider).

To be approved by Cleveland State, students must be in good standing, meaning a grade point average of 2.0 or higher, there is no financial hold on the student’s account and there is no active sanction against the student from the Office of Judicial Affairs or the Department of Student Life. It also depends on the completion of two semesters at Cleveland State, if the student is a freshman, and the completion of one semester, if the student is a transfer student.

“We want to make sure people are established at Cleveland State, that they feel comfortable in the university environment,” Good explained. “You have to establish yourself here, first.”

Alberto explained that studying abroad has a little bit of something for everyone.

“You don’t have to be an English major to enjoy a similarly eye-opening experience,” she said. “Study abroad was a great option for me because it enabled me to visit and experience a culture that I already respected for afar for its literacy achievements, but experiencing a different culture, and exploring a different country can be fun and interesting for anyone.”

In order to ensure students get the correct courses that will transfer between universities and the financial aid needed to go on a study abroad trip, it is recommended by Good to start the process at least a year in advance.

“The sooner you start, the easier it is,” Good said. “Funding is out there. There are lots of great scholarships, but planning early is really a must.”

For more information on studying abroad, financial resources and outside resources, visit