“Ideally, travel broadens our perspectives personally, culturally and politically. Suddenly, the palette with which we paint the story of our lives has more colors” ~ travel writer Rick Steves
According to the University of Southern Maine’s Director of International Programs, Kim Sinclair, “Study abroad is not simply an extracurricular activity -- in today’s global marketplace, it’s a necessity.”
“Employers and graduate schools understand and appreciate the value of a study abroad experience and the skills that students learn during their time abroad,” she said.
“And there are now statistics to back up the value of an international experience.”
According to a study by IES Abroad, 97% of study abroad students find employment within 12 months of graduation, their starting salaries average 25% higher than students who have not studied abroad and 90% of study abroad alumni report getting into their first or second-choice graduate school.
Senior Tourism and Hospitality major Tiana Burton said of her semester abroad, “My study abroad experience in Thailand had a huge impact on my life and education. I was able to learn about and experience a culture that is unique and incredibly welcoming. The Thai students made it a point to show us everything about their culture all the while eager to learn about my culture. My professors made learning about Thai language, culture, art, and history so much fun and I enjoyed every class. From the Thai students, professors, local food stall vendors, coffee shop owners and friends, Thailand really became home for those five months. And what I learned in the classroom will forever resonate with me and have a huge impact on my worldview.”
Sinclair said the USM Office of International Programs can assist students in locating a short-term travel program or study abroad opportunity that works with their major, the amount of time they have to spend abroad and their budget.
Options can include shorter faculty-led trips, where students can earn 3-6 credits over winter or spring breaks, such as the brand-new Global Communication/International Media course in Paris, where students will participate in immersive international study with experts in the fields of journalism, diplomacy, marketing, public relations and photojournalism. In the upcoming Summer Travel in China course, students will take Chinese language classes, enjoy cultural experiences and such as Chinese calligraphy and tea art, and explore iconic landmarks such as the Great Wall of China.
"The summer China trip with the Confucius Institute provides students with a rare opportunity to experience China with all expenses paid except air travel and a full scholarship for 3 credits. More importantly, it acquaints students with the most consequential rising country in the 21st century,” said Joseph W. McDonnell, professor, Public Policy and Management from the Muskie School of Public Service.
“It was a mind-opening experience for the 20 USM students that journeyed to China last summer," McDonnell said.
Students can also take a semester abroad, with reciprocal exchange programs at universities in a wide range of countries from Iceland to South Korea, where they pay USM in-state tuition and fees. There are also programs available through approved study abroad providers, and more. Sinclair said her office always encourages students to explore these options and not just assume the programs will be cost-prohibitive; scholarship information can be found on the office’s website.
Criminology major Katherine Muriel from Houlton, Maine, spent a semester studying in Leicester, England. She described her experiences, saying, “The three months I spent in Leicester, England were some of the best of my entire life. It's scary to learn how to live somewhere new, but Leicester was beautiful and welcoming and I loved every second from the moment I arrived until the moment I left.”
The next deadline for applications to study abroad is March 15th for Summer 2019, Fall 2019 or AY-19-20 Study Abroad. USM’s study abroad deadlines are always October and March. The summer programs have individual deadlines which are listed on their pages.Tiana Burton
Sinclair encourages students to stop by her office at Payson Smith Hall on the Portland Campus, or visit the USM Office of International Programs website to learn what possibilities exist and how they can help students make their study abroad dream a reality.
Story by Danielle Vayenas, USM Office of Public Affairs
Photos in the article, plus a full gallery of images were shared by the following USM students:
Brianne Hodgkins (USM Confucius Institute Program Coordinator)