While the students at SF State pursue their four year degrees, others search for new ways to expand their education and culturally enrich their lives.
For the 2011-2012 academic year SF State ranked first among the 23 California State University campuses for receiving the most applications to study abroad programs. SF State received 195 applications, followed by Sonoma State University, which received 92 student applications.
The Office of International Programs on campus offers study abroad programs in more than 20 different countries. Students can earn academic credit while participating in either semester or year-long programs.
“Once you get on that plane and arrive where you are exchanging it’s completely breathtaking,” said Nicole Cuda, a sociology major who participated in the exchange program to Hong Kong last year. She is also an office manager for International Education Exchange Council, an organization that supports student exchange and international education on campus.
Even though the IEEC is one of the newer organizations on campus, it has quickly become one of the largest and most active. They encourage students to participate in student exchange and international education as a way of culturally enriching their lives.
“We introduce people from other cultures to San Francisco, our culture. We introduce American students to international students in order to make friends and if they are going to study abroad they can have connections, learn about other areas, and get set up and have a stepping stone to their study abroad program,” said Peter Schaarshmidt, a finance major who is also a member of IEEC.
The IEEC also has different programs and committees dedicated to helping students, including the finance committee and the language exchange program. The finance committee raises money each semester to provide multiple study abroad scholarships. The language exchange program is a program where students teach others their native tongue.
“Because we have members from all over the world, people offer their services of teaching their native tongue to other students who are interested in learning and that just aids the whole process of developing international education,” said Jamar Taylor, an international business major. Taylor will be studying abroad in Paris this January and learned French by participating in the language exchange program.
Schaarshmidt is preparing to study abroad in Thailand this January also. In many cases, the cost of staying at SF State is more expensive than the cost of participating in a program abroad.
“It will be so much cheaper in Thailand than it is here, like ridiculously cheaper,” Schaarshmidt said.
Seventy-five percent of students who participate in study abroad programs utilize financial aid to supplement the cost of the program. Scholarships are also offered to students in many different areas of focus, as well as general scholarships, scholarships by country and by major. These opportunities can offset the cost of studying abroad significantly.
Some students, such as Cuda, were able to shave off a semester or an entire year from college by going abroad. For most the application process is the most stressful part of the whole the study abroad program. It is very detailed and extensive, taking most students months to complete.
“The process itself probably takes about four to five months to get all of the stuff that is needed,” Cuda said. “It is stressful, totally stressful and I remember ripping out my hair everyday over it, but it was worth every penny and worth every minute of my day.”