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The world is a classroom for UGA students

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The world is a classroom for UGA students

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July 20, 2014

At UGA, students have the opportunity to study environmental journalism in Costa Rica, social issues in Northern Ireland, films and critical writings in France, art and music in Italy, public health in Israel, urban administration in South Korea, service-learning in South Africa and human nutrition in Australia.

In total, UGA had 2,142 students who studied abroad for 12,500 credit hours in the 2012-2013 academic year.

Those numbers were enough to merit UGA being ranked 15th among all U.S. institutions in the 2013 Open Doors report.

Mike Young, a recent mass media arts graduate, studied abroad through the UGA Cannes Film Study Abroad program sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. In the May class, he viewed and critiqued films from every continent, attended the film festival and by chance meeting got career advice from the managing editor of IMDb.

"I've always known that film, particularly documentaries highlighting and exploring the creative process, was going to be a part of my future, but being at Cannes only solidified that goal and gave greater immediacy to it," said Young. "There are a lot of established directors and producers at Cannes, but there are even more who are just starting out. Cannes showed me that there is no better time to start than now, and that with hard work, good training and a passionate team around you, I have just as much potential to make it in this business as anyone else at the festival."

For students looking to go abroad, UGA has approximately 100 faculty-led programs. UGA has year-round residential centers in Oxford, England; Cortona, Italy; and in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. Besides the traditional classroom-based programs, study abroad opportunities also include service-learning, lecture, fieldwork, internships and laboratory experiences.

"There's an academic benefit of learning in studying abroad," said Kavita Pandit, associate provost for international education. "Whether it is history, international affairs, public health or another discipline, learning about a subject ‘on site' creates a vivid awareness about the material being taught that leads to greater student engagement. It is not surprising to find that a study abroad experience influences a student's educational and career choices and leads to lifelong personal and professional connections abroad."

Pandit, a native of India, came to the U.S. for graduate school, and said she learned constantly during that experience. She takes pride in UGA students having the same opportunities she did, learning new skills and more about themselves.

"Sometimes I think that the best learning isn't what you learn about the foreign place, but what you learn about yourself," Pandit said. "It's that personal growth that comes when you gain confidence, gain experience and the ability to look at yourself and your own culture from a new perspective."

And study abroad is becoming more and more popular. Fifteen years ago, about 10 percent of students studied abroad during their time at UGA; now, 26 percent of UGA students go abroad.

"I think it's becoming understood what a study abroad experience can give you besides the learning," Pandit said. "More employers are valuing the intercultural skills, flexibility, ability to handle new situations that a study abroad gives you. It's learning to think critically and being open to different perspectives."

And that's really what study abroad is all about, she said.

UGA offers a total of 192 study abroad and exchange programs. There are 125 study abroad programs, 53 exchange programs and 14 nontraditional study abroad programs. New destinations are regularly being added-in the last 10 years, the number of traditional study abroad programs has increased from 57 to 125.

Western Europe and Latin America have been the most popular destinations for UGA students. The fastest growing areas, however, are Asia and Australia, according to the Office of International Education.

Each of UGA's 17 colleges and schools sends students abroad. The majority of them travel while pursuing degrees from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, but the Terry College of Business, the School of Public and International Affairs and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication also send more than 200 students abroad annually.

Professional and graduate students account for more than 10 percent of all UGA study abroad participants, and the area has shown considerable growth.

Going abroad is becoming more accessible, Pandit said.

"Decades ago, the main type of study abroad was the junior year abroad," she said. "While this involved a deep and immersive overseas experience, only few students could afford the cost and time involved. Today we are seeing a much greater variety of study abroad programs that range from two weeks long to a year. Students do not have to wait until their junior year to study abroad-indeed we are seeing many first-year students participate. There's a lot more scholarship support. And we're seeing more and more study abroad programs designed to not disrupt progress toward degrees. So studying abroad doesn't have to delay graduation."