Exchange Programs turn the World into a Classroom

The deadlines are approaching for potential student exchange programs with Southern Oregon University. The International Students Office, located in Stevenson Union, helps students select programs and prepare for their travel.

“I think everyone should go on exchange if they can, especially during school,” said Diane Rogers, SOU student who studied abroad in Spain. “I mean, you can earn credits while you are there.”

SOU offers four types of exchange: reciprocal, affiliated/approved, internships, and National Student Exchange.

Reciprocal exchange is direct enrollment into another school. SOU and these institutions have an agreement to allow students travel between the two schools without a third party. Then the International Students Office enrolls students into the classes for them. Students will not be recognized as part of the exchange if they register themselves. The student pays SOU fees and tuition, travel and housing costs. The price of housing is usually about the same as living on campus here, according to Mary Gardiner, the Education Abroad Coordinator. Reciprocal exchanges include University of Winchester in England and Dankook University in South Korea.

Affiliated/approved exchange programs are through travel providers. The providers that the International Students Office list are programs that SOU is familiar with, and know are safe. The office is open to looking at programs they are unfamiliar with, but might suggest one of theirs instead in terms of affordability or accreditation. The costs of these programs vary as each provider sets their own prices. It is also important to check what is included in these costs as some may or may not include meals, housing, and other features. Location, program type and session length also fluctuate greatly.

The National Student Exchange program helps people travel inside the U.S., its territories and Canada. There are two options for cost: paying SOU tuition and fees or pay the instate costs for the other chosen institution.

“NSE wasn’t well known to SOU till now, but I think there’s a lot of potential,” said Gardiner. She continued, explain that different cultures can be experienced within different parts of the U.S. and its neighbor, and it’s less expensive than other programs.

SOU also helps students find international internships. These have a different application process, because a student would be applying for a job that will have much more specific requirements. Employers will be looking for seniors and late juniors who are secured in their majors and able to demonstrate the skills in that area of study. Past work experience is also helpful. Gardiner recommends that those interested should discuss it with their department advisor as well.

The requirements for each program varies. Grade, area of study and language level are common. That said, Rogers, who went to the University of Cádiz, said she could barely speak Spanish before going to Spain for a seven week intensive language program.

There are scholarships offered through program providers, but for what and how much fluctuates. Outside groups also offer scholarships. Freedom Force of Oregon offers a scholarship to those who would not have an opportunity of traveling otherwise. There is also the Benjamin A. Gillman International Scholarship and Boren Scholarships available for interested students.

With reciprocal and NSE exchange, all scholarships that a student may have received for SOU will still apply if they choose to pay for SOU tuition and fees. School specific scholarships will not transfer over. Those looking into exchange should talk with the financial aid office about holding or postponing scholarships when not using SOU cost options.

In all programs, credit is available for the classes a student takes. It is important to meet with advisors about what to take, as they will know how those classes will transfer back to SOU.

Gardiner encourages students to look into programs, saying exchange is for everyone. When discussing benefits, she said “the biggest thing is that they have a different outlook on things.”

Both Rogers and Gardiner expressed that students have to ready to experience new things as well.

“If you just sit in your dorm room in Europe, it won’t be any different than sitting in your dorm room here,” Gardiner said.

“Be open to meeting people, and doing anything that comes your way,” Rogers said.

Gardiner said one has to be adaptable, flexible, and open-minded to gain the full experience. To prepare for this, she suggested students start pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone now. Trying new things and meeting people here, will ease the jump of trying to do it away from home.

It is also recommended to be on top of school work before leaving. Rogers had to leave a week before school ended, and took all her finals early. She spoke with her professors about it in advance, and said “they were very helpful and understanding.”

Gardiner did suggest traveling through other methods than studying abroad might be more appealing to some students.

“If you want to travel and explore, then go do that instead,” Gardiner urged.

All grades received will appear on transcripts, so students should be committed to making an effort in classes while exchanging. If not, it is advise to find a non-studying program for travel purposes.

If interested in exchange, contact the International Student Office, and make an appointment with either Gardiner or a student advisor. She suggests doing some research about places and programs prior to the appointment. The website is a good place to start, although it is currently under maintenance, so some information may not be fully up-to-date.