Temple students are creating their own study abroad programs

Students are choosing non-Temple study abroad programs to visit less traditional locations.

Taylore Roth (right) and her friends wear traditional Tibetan robes in preparation for a Losar, or Tibetan New Year, celebration in Sichuan, China. Roth spent Losar, a 15-day festival, with Nomchan (center left) and his family. COURTESY TAYLORE ROTH

Taylore Roth, a senior political science major, spent Chinese New Year with a Tibetan family and participated in their holiday traditions from start to finish.

“[It] was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had,” she said.

Roth, who also has minors in economics and Chinese, spent her entire junior year in Chengdu, China.

“Temple doesn’t have any programs in China and my minor is Chinese, and I really wanted to learn Chinese,” she said. “I needed to pick an external program.”

She went overseas with University Studies Abroad Consortium, a nonprofit that runs through the University of Nevada, Reno.

“It was also just extremely affordable compared to the other programs,” she said. “I actually saved money by going there.”

Differences in teaching styles also swayed Roth to do an external program instead of direct enrolling.

“With the American program, we were able to have a lot of conversations, debate and free flow of ideas,” Roth said. “A Chinese program with a Chinese professor would have just been us listening and taking notes.”

Roth, like many students, said she’s had “life-changing” experiences while studying abroad. Although Temple has programs in Italy, Japan, Spain and the UK, some students, like Roth, choose programs outside the university.

Michelle Isel-Margolis, the program manager for the Education Abroad and  Overseas Campuses, said the most popular official Temple study abroad locations are Ireland, England and Western Europe, but there is “a growing popularity” for programs in Latin America and South Asia. Many students have picked programs outside of Temple for a wider selection of locations or less expensive programs.

Liam Eifert, a junior film major, is planning on spending Spring 2017 in Vancouver, Canada.

“I have always been into the outdoors, mainly skiing and snowboarding,” Eifert said. “What got me into being a film major in the first place was I watched a lot of ski films [and] what came up a lot in these films was Vancouver.”

Eifert struggled to find a program that worked for him.

“I knew I wanted to go to British Columbia but there weren’t any study abroad programs, even externally, so I had to direct enroll,” he said.

For some students, participating in an external program or exchange help meet needs that official Temple programs can’t.

Isel-Margolis said nearly 1,100 students study abroad each year. During the 2015-16 school year, including summer sessions, 191 students participated in external or exchange programs instead of official study abroad programs through Temple’s Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses.

Isel-Margolis works with students who choose external study abroad programs or do exchange programs with schools around the world.

Emily Daniels, a senior German major, participated in an exchange program with University of Tübingen in southern Germany. By doing a direct exchange, Daniels said she was able to take classes with German students and really learn about their culture.

She said one of the most difficult parts about adapting to Germany was making friends. She said German students tended to have close-knit groups of friends and for a while, she was “just an acquaintance” to them.

“They’re not just going to call anyone their friend,” Daniels said. “But when it’s all done, you have friends for life.”

In addition to meeting new people, studying abroad can be beneficial to students’ performance in the classroom and their resumes.

Studies by University of Texas at Austin, University of Georgia and University of California, San Diego show students who participate in study abroad programs are more likely to have higher GPAs following their time abroad and are more likely to graduate college. According to IESabroad, two-thirds of students who have studied abroad found jobs within two months of graduation.

The number of students studying abroad has been increasing nationwide. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, during the 2013-14 school year, the number of United States students studying abroad for credit increased by 5.2 percent.

“I’d say that there has been a little bit of an increase,” Isel-Margolis said. “Not a huge jump in numbers, but there is definitely an increase in interest in non-Temple programs.”

“If you can find classes that suit you academically, the world is open to you,” she added.

Kimberly Burton can be reached at kimberly.burton@temple.edu.

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