The Center for International Studies presented some information about their new study abroad program in Stellenbosch, South Africa during the Study Abroad Fair held on Feb. 7 in the BLUU Auditorium. (Photo by Michelle Carter)

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TCU is continuing to add to its study abroad options as the university works to boost the number of students who want to learn outside the U.S.

Starting in spring 2019, students will be able to attend classes in Stellenbosch, South Africa, located about 45 minutes east of Cape Town. After developing different partnerships in South Africa, the Center for International Studies (CIS) created this new program in association with Stellenbosch University.

“This is a school that looks and feels like TCU,” program coordinator for the Center for International Studies Jesica Severson said. “We knew that the interest was there and that this would be a good fit [for students] based on academics, so this will be an exciting place to be.”

More information about the program will be available by late March or early April through the CIS website, and informational sessions will be scheduled at that time. Students will be able to apply for the program starting June 1.

Overall, TCU has more than 350 study abroad options for students to consider.

Students sign up for more information during the Study Abroad Fair held on Feb. 7 in the BLUU Auditorium. (Photo by Michelle Carter)

Severson said cost, curriculum and culture are three areas where students express the most concerns.

Costs are structured to resemble a semester at TCU.

“Students have to pay TCU tuition and a program fee, which will look similar to what you pay for housing,” Severson said. “The costs are roughly equivalent, and there’s lots of financial aid and scholarships resources that TCU has as well.”

Study abroad honors the financial aid that the student receives while studying in Fort Worth. CIS also offers a wide variety of scholarships and grants to help offset expenses that aren’t covered through financial aid.

“I applied for a study abroad scholarship, which has been really helpful and taken some of the [financial] stress off,” said Rebecca Fallon, who is in Florence, Italy. “I haven’t heard of one student here that applied to it and didn’t get any sort of help.”

In terms of curriculum, there are short-term trips in the summer for students who worry about going abroad for a semester because of program concerns.

First-year student Claire Cato, attended the Study Abroad Fair, held Feb. 7, looking for programs for her graphic design major.

“I wanted to know which places in the world I could go for my major and there are more [programs] than I thought,” Cato said. “I would consider going for a semester, probably in my junior year.”

CIS has partnered with different colleges across campus to identify a specific term within the degree plan for students to go abroad.

“There is a path, no matter what college or department you belong to,” Severson said. “For example, the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, [which can be] very tricky, has carved out a specific semester for their students to go abroad, and we’re working with the College of Science and Engineering to do the same thing.”

Graduating on time may leave students uneasy about studying abroad, however, multiple universities have done research that found that students that study abroad tend to graduate at higher on-time rates than those that don’t, and TCU is no different.

Severson said that preparing to study abroad involves planning ahead and talking to CIS and academic advisers, and if done carefully, it should not set students back.

“If a student isn’t going to graduate on time, I would probably caution them to really think hard whether they should because adding a semester is a significant financial cost,” she said. “They need to be really sure that that’s what they want to do.”

Culturally speaking, some student’s aversion to studying abroad comes from the fact that they do not want to miss out on a semester in Fort Worth.

“I am so grateful to attend such an incredible school that it made me question going abroad,” Fallon said.

However, Fallon said all the positives of going abroad was what made her decide to go.

“Knowing how unique this experience is has made everything easier,” Fallon said. “I’ve gotten more comfortable here each day.”

Students are advised about cultural differences during pre-departure orientation sessions. While most students have been amazed at how welcoming people can be, certain topics can be uncomfortable.

“As Americans out in the world, we are asked to be representatives of our country and people are going to ask you about things that are going on,” Severson said. “It’s a little bit jarring because we’re not always used to having those conversations and I think people are just generally curious.”

Many students said they appreciated their study abroad experiences.

“I absolutely loved [my] program,” Ashley Wilcock, who completed a summer program in Europe in 2017, said. “I think it was very well planned. I truly appreciated the academic side of the trip as well as being able to explore the cities with free time.”

About 38 percent of students will study abroad at some point, during their time at TCU.

Severson is hopeful about the new program.

“We want to see 100 percent of students study abroad,” Severson said. “If you want to go, we want to enable you to go.”