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Study abroad students share experiences as deadline draws near

Submitted by Jayme Goad on February 12, 2014 – 3:45 pmOne Comment

Sophomore Kelly Singer posing beside the "Artemis" statue at the Louvre. She is directly outside the room that houses the "Mona Lisa."

Deadlines are right around the corner for students wanting to participate in the next study abroad experience. Applications are due by Friday, March 14 for the fall 2014 program and by Monday, Sept. 15 for spring 2015 program.UALR has a five-step program for those interested in participating in studying abroad. Information sessions are held once a week; the sessions cover everything from credit hours and program selection to financial aid.

“Financial aid comes in by helping to re-calculate the students’ cost of attendance to include the study abroad experience.” Said Study Abroad Director Porntip Israsena. Students receive college credit hours for participating in programs abroad. Most programs last from a semester to year. There are faculty-led programs available, too.

Prior to their trip, students fill out a course pre-approval form with the department of the language in which they wish to study.

“If [students] are studying French, it’s likely they will be studying in France,” said Israsena. Once students attend the information session, they have more of an idea of which country they would like to study. After arriving at their study abroad destination, students will attend university.

Sophomore Kelly Singer is a linguistics major in the Donaghey Scholars Program. She departed for her study abroad experience on Aug. 30, 2013. She is currently living with a six-person host family in Orleans, France. Although Singer studied French for two years, she admits “it still has its communication challenges.” She said now she is nearly fluent in the language.

“When I arrived, I realized quickly how much vocabulary I didn’t know. Every other conversation was a game of Charades sprinkled with broken French,” Singer said.

She starts her day off around 8 a.m. with a 45 minute tram ride to l’Universite d’Orleans where she studies.
She said she knew she wanted to study abroad in France before she had ever taken her first high-school French class. Singer said the French have a rich history that molds their work to live cultures.

“Were I queen of the world, study abroad would be mandatory for everyone,” Singer said. “Foreign exchange has been such an enriching and gratifying experience because it has cultivated my appreciation for my language skills and for the overwhelming humanity of the people I have met.”

Singer was not alone in gaining fulfillment from studying abroad.

Fifth-year senior Jalissa Willis relaxes with her friend at a Costa Rica beach in 2012.

Fifth-year senior Jalissa Willis studied from Aug. 30 to Dec. 21, 2013 in Costa Rica. She attended the Universidad Veritas in San Jose but said she spoke Spanish before going abroad.

“Several of my classmates came abroad with no language whatsoever,” Willis said. “A lot of them were biology or health majors, people studying things that had nothing to do with Spanish. I can honestly say if you’re afraid to go abroad because of that, don’t be.”

Willis visited many Costa Rican landmarks, including the Arenal Volcano, Baldi Hot Springs, a hand crafting woodshop, and an island called “Boca del Toro” where she saw dolphins. She learned how to make jewelry out of dried fruit. She patrolled the beach while volunteering at a sea turtle conservation. She found turtle eggs and saved them from poachers, and after they hatched, she watched them return to ocean safely.

“Every weekend was a vacation,” Willis said.

Willis majors in both American Sign Language and English Interpretation in Spanish. She received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which provides awards for undergraduate students that are receiving federal Pell grant funding at a two- or four-year college that participate in the study abroad program.

The double major says her advice for students interested in studying abroad is to talk to people who have experienced study abroad and stop by the international office and ask questions.

“College is one of the [only] times where you can literally write an essay about your life goals and someone pays your for it. Go!” Willis said.

Students interested in learning more about studying abroad should contact Study Abroad Director Porntip Israsena or visit ualr.edu/studyabroad.

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