Explore the World

Portland State student Esther Gvora always knew that she wanted to study abroad. Gvora, an applied linguistics major with a minor in French, considered taking a year of classes in France, but she took the bolder step of going to Dakar, Senegal, for a semester-long program. “I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something a little different,” she says.

Education Abroad Fair 

 

Wednesday, October 4

11:00am - 2:00pm

Smith Ballroom (355)

Smith Memorial Student Union, 3rd Floor

No RSVP necessary -- Stop by anytime, even if it's just for a few minutes

 

PSU’s Education Abroad Office helps students like Gvora navigate international academic opportunities, which include study abroad, service learning, Capstone projects, internships, and short faculty-led courses. They’re available to undergraduates, as well as post-bac and graduate students of all disciplines. “There are a lot of options — over 200 in 80 countries,” says Jen Hamlow, director of Education Abroad. “The biggest challenge is narrowing it down.” She notes that many kinds of financial aid also apply to study abroad, and travel-specific assistance is available, too. “If students plan ahead, a study-abroad trip can be affordable,” says Hamlow.

On Wednesday, October 4, students can attend the Education Abroad Fair to learn about the opportunities available to them, including ways to finance a study-abroad experience. Foreign universities, third-party companies that facilitate the study-abroad process, and PSU faculty members who guide trips will all be on hand to discuss what they do. Other PSU departments will also be represented, including Financial Aid and World Languages and Literatures. Peer advisors -- students who have completed Education Abroad trips -- will be at the fair to discuss their experiences.

One of the peer advisors is Karolyn Kaseberg. After attending the Education Abroad Fair and doing additional research, she chose a year-long program in Viterbo, Italy, a town of 30,000 people between Tuscany and Rome. “It’s a really amazing city -- a well-preserved medieval center. It’s not a huge tourist center, so you get this really authentic Italian experience. Not a lot of people speak English.”

Studies show that the benefits of study abroad include higher grade point averages, improved language ability, and more career options, as employers seek out recruits who have cross-cultural understanding. "Ninety percent of study-abroad alumni find their first job within six months of graduation," says Hamlow. "Ninety percent get into their first or second choice of grad school. Study-abroad alumni have 19 percent lower unemployment rates, and 25 percent higher starting salaries."

Gvora and Kaseberg both found that their overseas experiences made them more flexible and adaptable. “You learn how to go with the flow more, when you’re studying abroad,” says Gvora. Though she lived in Dakar, she spent a week farming in Mbodiene, went to the city of Touba for a holy celebration, and camped for a week in Kedougou. She also went on shorter class excursions to Lampoul and Toubab Dialaw. One lesson she took away from her trip was the Senegalese concept of “Niokobok,” or “We share this.” “If you have something, even if you don’t have a lot, you share that,” she explains. “It’s something I now to apply in every part of my life.”

Kaseberg was so affected by her journey that her career goal is to work with an Education Abroad organization and help other Americans students study abroad. “I want to be the person who helps open those doors,” she says. “I definitely encourage everyone to go — no matter how long, no matter what your major is.”

Images: Esther Gvora in the Lampoul desert in Senegal; Karolyn Kaseberg in Italy.

By Stephanie Argy, a graduate assistant in the Office of University Communications.