Study abroad offers firsthand experience and knowledge

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    University students Paige Laycock and Colleen Hanratty participated in the Language and Culture in Seville, Spain study abroad program to gain a firsthand knowledge of the language and culture, Laycock said.

    Despite a downturn in the economy, the emphasis the university continued to put on a global education encouraged students to study abroad, a university study abroad official said.

    According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, unemployment rates increased nationally from 2006-2010.

    But according to data sent by Tracy Williams, associate director for the Center for International Studies, study abroad rates have only been slightly impacted for the same years.

    The university made study abroad a prominent part of the mission statement, which led to student commitment to studying abroad regardless of cost, Williams said.

    Laycock, a junior psychology major, chose to study abroad despite not receiving financial aid. She is a Spanish minor and wanted to get more credit and real-world experience, she said.

    The Spain program helped her become more well-rounded and proficient in Spanish, she said.

    Williams said study abroad programs engage students in an “experiential learning.” They are able to “live learning rather than sit in a classroom.”

    She said more departments across campus have seen a value in study abroad, not just traditional language and liberal arts students.

    Hanratty, a senior social work major, is not a Spanish major or minor, but she participated in the Spain summer program to gain a better knowledge of the language and culture, she said. She will intern for class credit next semester at Alliance for Children, a local nonprofit for child abuse victims, by doing research with Hispanic families.

    “I’ll be working with Spanish-speaking clients for social work, and I need to be better in my communication skills,” she said.

    Hanratty said she received a grant from the TCU Office of Financial Aid to study for the summer. Without the grant, she said she probably would not have studied abroad.

    Williams said the university and the study abroad office have been working together to offset student costs.

    The university has offered more scholarships and financial aid over the last two years, and she hopes the additional aid has helped students, she said.

    The average amount of scholarships awarded per semester was about $2,000, and summer scholarships were in the range of $1,500, Williams said.

    The financial aid office worked with students on a need-based level, and the study abroad office awarded scholarships based on academic merit, she said.

    Overall, Williams said she thought students knew study abroad was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    “This is preparing them for their jobs regardless of what they do,” she said.