Studying abroad: A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

One of the many benefits of pursuing a college education provides is the exposure to new opportunities. At Hope College, there are many programs that one can immerse themselves in, such as study abroad programs. According to a survey conducted by International Education of Students (IES), 96% of students report that studying abroad “served as a catalyst for maturity, self-confidence, and increased worldview” (IvyPanda). At Hope, the off-campus study program is facilitated by the Fried Center for Global Engagement and its mission is to help students gain a global outcome by integrating themselves into a global society through curiosity, knowledge, flexibility, critical thinking, independence, self-awareness and empathy. 

Kendra Williams, an Assistant Director for the Center of Global Engagement, says that they have 300 hundred programs in over 60 different countries. A concern that many students express about studying abroad is that the programs can be quite expensive. “If you go on a Hope College approved program, your financial aid should travel with you for up to two semesters, unless you have an obscure type of scholarship,” says Williams.  Williams went on to say that the only difference between is the cost of room and board, which depends on one’s program and living situation, plus travel expenses.  In addition,  “The living situation varies depending on the location. There are some places, such as Spain, that offer living with a host family, but in Australia, that would not be an option.” 

What does studying abroad look like for a student?

Isabella Musherure (’23), a psychology and sociology major studying abroad in Spain, says that what interested her in studying abroad was her love for traveling. In coming to Hope, Isabelle wanted an out-of-state college experience. As someone who lived in Uganda, Musherure considers herself a global citizen. She says, “studying abroad was one way to broaden my worldview, and a chance to get outside of the whole bubble.” An advantage that allowed Musherure to study abroad was that her scholarship covered most of the cost. In addition, she also mentions that there are scholarships to apply for through the Fried Center. 

Musherure said that initially it was hard leaving her friends and going to a new country. 

“You can go study abroad with friends, but I wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and immerse myself in a new community.  I wanted to do it on my own,” Musherure says. She mentions that if people come with friends, they should make sure to branch out and not stick to themselves. “By staying in that social network, they are not leaving what they know. I did not want it to be a summer camp, I wanted to meet the locals and not just other Americans,” Musherure noted.

At first, Musherure wanted to go to the Dominican Republic, but Spain had a good cultural aspect to it, so when she saw the internship, she took it.  When studying abroad, students are sometimes concerned about the language barrier. Musherure advises students to practice with their friends that speak the language because practice makes perfect. 

There are many difficulties that come with living in a new environment, such as “FOMO”, or fear of missing out. William and Isabelle both state that this is an opportunity of a lifetime that many students in the senior year wish they had experienced. “There is no doubt that there is going to be homesickness,” William says, “but, each program has an awesome orientation for students that helps them navigate their way around the new environment.” 

What does the application process look like?

The application involves a two-part process. “The first part is the Hope college application located at After you get approved, then you apply to the program you are interested in on their website, which is the second part,” says Williams.  Williams emphasizes that students should come to the off-campus library located in the Martha Miller building because there are peer advisors that have also been through the process and can assist you. After that, there are staff members that can help with deciding what course to take, and help you in looking more in-depth about the program.

“The growth of a student from the start of their off-campus study orientation to back at Hope is the most exciting thing to me. To see students, tell stories about having experienced a diverse world view by interacting with diverse cultures.”

Kendra Williams suggests that interested students should come and talk to peer advisors and off-campus staff if they have any hesitations. Reassuring that,  “we are here for them, and the agencies within each program have a center that is going to help with registration, emergencies, and housing.” 

Lastly, Williams and Isabelle say that the earlier students plan, the better because many students regret not studying abroad. Musherure adds on by saying, “it is a chance of a lifetime to see the world out of your own perspective.” Even if studying abroad is too expensive, Musherure encourages students to leverage off-campus study opportunities in another state. 

On the other hand, Williams proposes that for pre-professions, one might want to start thinking about studying abroad in sophomore year and go their junior year. “Junior year is the most solid option because by that time a student has a good academic footing and good understanding of their career path,” she explains. However, students can go anytime within their four years. 

Studying abroad is a fun and exciting way to learn, and every college student should look forward to immersing themselves in different cultures through participating in the programs, which allows one to be a more culturally aware global leader and citizen of our generation. 

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