Study abroad hopefuls look for aid

Students interested in studying abroad are feeling the impact of the declining value of the dollar and rising global prices, but a newly proposed act now in Congress may provide some relief.

The Sen. Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act proposes that federal funding be given to individual students and universities to increase the opportunities for study abroad programs. The bill aims to drastically increase the number of American students studying abroad within 10 years. Currently the bill, which has bi-partisan support in both houses, is waiting for approval in the Senate.

The Geneseo Study Abroad office has already recognized the difficulties students who wish to study abroad face and are taking steps to relieve some of the burden.

According to Rebecca Lewis, interim assistant provost for international programs and study abroad, "Costs associated with studying abroad such as housing, classroom rental and airplane tickets have all gone up in the past year."

Lewis explained that especially since Geneseo's study abroad program is quite robust, they have felt the effects of the poor economy.

"Almost one quarter of Geneseo students study abroad sometime in their four-year college career," she said. "Last year nearly 300 students participated in programs lasting from one week to a year."

The latest national data, available on the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers Web site, states that only 200,000 college students, approximately 1 percent of the nation's total, study abroad each year. Geneseo's average is just over 5 percent each year.

Senior Emily Grisante, who attended the University of Bath in England last spring, was struck by how expensive goods and services were due to the poor exchange rate.

"I definitely was way over budget," she said, but added that despite the overwhelming expense, she would definitely recommend studying abroad to others. "I just had such a great time traveling and meeting new people and getting to experience a different culture by living there. It's a lot different than just traveling there for a few days."

Senior Cory Higley took both Humanities abroad, studying in Athens, Greece and the Czech Republic in the summer of 2006. His major criticism of the program was regarding all the extra fees.

"They shouldn't make us pay for things we don't need like health insurance if we're covered under our parents' plans," he said.

According to Lewis, the college is working hard to keep the price students pay at a minimum, but unfortunately cannot defray many of the costs that are required by the universities and colleges that host the programs. Lewis said that the Study Abroad office is working on increasing the opportunities provided by Geneseo and is developing additional funding sources to provide increased financial support.

Luckily for students, there are a few ways to save money. Looking for discount airfares and applying for scholarships or grants can save money. Additionally, Lewis noted, many students choose to travel to Western Europe where the exchange rate is favorable to them. She suggested that students look in to traveling to developing countries where they can get more for their money.

Lewis added that the Study Abroad Office is more than happy to help students with their applications and in finding ways to pay for their trips.