Study abroad accessible to all, despite price, strict degree schedules

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Photo Credit: Lauren Ibanez | Daily Texan Staff

Many students believe they won’t be able to study abroad due to the high price tag and strict degree requirements.

The International Office that houses the study abroad office at UT is a resource students can use to combat these myths and provides a way for all students who want to study abroad to get where they want to go. The International Office has multiple tools to help students find the right program, find scholarships and see where previous students have studied.

Heather Thompson, director of study abroad, said students should start the study abroad process before they even come to UT, during freshman orientation.

“We want students to start thinking about studying abroad as an integral part of their four-year degree,” Thompson said.

For current students, she said it is most optimal to start planning a year before they want to go. If students wait to start planning their study abroad three to six months before they want to go, Thompson said, they may miss some important deadlines, especially for funding and scholarships.

“That’s really kind of the sweet spot,” Thompson said. “Mainly because then we have a year to work with your academics. We have a year to help you make sure you apply for all the right scholarships.”

She said UT offers around 400 programs, which can be found on the study abroad website. She said a single student won’t have 400 programs that work for their degree plan, but the online program search helps students narrow down their options based on major, location and time frame.

“What we find is that students refine what they’re looking for, that they get that 400 down to generally less than a hundred pretty darn quick,” Thompson said. “Most students get it down to about 20 even quicker.”

Political communications senior Alondra Ortiz has been a peer adviser for the Study Abroad office since 2018. As a peer adviser, she consults students throughout the study abroad process. Ortiz said she never considered studying abroad before coming to college and thought she wouldn’t be able to afford it, but the program coordinator helped her get the resources she needed to make it possible.

“For me it was just having that support throughout the whole process,” Ortiz said. “I was like, ‘Okay, it’s not impossible to study abroad and have it funded,’ if that’s the reason why you’re not going.”

Ortiz said studying abroad helped her narrow in on what she wanted to do after graduation. She took classes at the Australian National University and interned at the Embassy of Mexico in Canberra.

“I gained so much just from being abroad and having that opportunity to intern,” Ortiz said. “I realized that I eventually do want to work abroad.”

Morton Payne, international relations and global studies and French senior, also serves as a peer adviser. Payne said there is so much students can gain from studying abroad, as it helps students develop a different viewpoint and become more adaptable to new environments.

“A lot of the times you don’t realize how caught up you are in the American bubble,” Payne said. “Being able to escape that and see the world from another perspective, another viewpoint, I think that’s very, very valuable and something that stands out.”