Study Abroad Fair opens new doors
The Study Abroad Fair at Grand Valley State University strives to bring students an opportunity to
explore several different countries at once while remaining in the U.S.
“The benefit of the Study Abroad Fair is that this is the one time of the year that you get all these
people in one room together,” said Alissa Lane, outreach coordinator for the Padnos International
Center. “Peer advisers (are) people who’ve (studied abroad) before, people who know the funding,
people who are excited to talk to you.”
The fair, which is LIB 100 and 201 approved, will take place in the Grand River Room in the Kirkhof
Center on Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will feature more than 30 booths representing GVSU study
abroad partners, GVSU faculty-led programs, financial aid, scholarship and fellowship, major advice,
internships and travel clinics, as well non-GVSU affiliated programs. Organizers are stressing that one
of the most valuable experiences the fair will provide is the opportunity to network with both
international students and students who have previously studied abroad. The fair will be showcasing
programs that occur in the summer and fall of 2014, for which applications are due Feb. 1.
“I hope the fair inspires (students) to take this key step to study abroad,” co-organizer Meaghann
Myers-Smith said. “It takes some dedication, it takes some work. The ball is in these students’ court.
They can take these steps to figure out their options. It’s a fun event, low-pressure. I hope they get
lost into this idea of this life experience. It’s an experience we’re encouraging students to have.”
This year, the fair will be highlighting new programs that are now available to students. These include
programs that are major and interest-specific, such as a new service and spirituality program in India,
two new engineering partnerships with cities in Austria and Switzerland, and an ecology and
conservation biology focus in Ecuador. Several of the internship programs, such as those based in
Austria and Switzerland, involve the students working at company headquarters, which then have
branches located in West Michigan.
“It’s hands-on experience in your field,” Myers-Smith said. “It’s something not offered here, like
working in the rainforests (of Ecuador). That gives you real substance when you go in for job
Aside from booths offering GVSU-run programs, some will be represented that are not affiliated with
“With these programs, students reap the same benefits (as GVSU-affiliated programs),” Myers-Smith
said. “They maintain their GVSU student status, they’re not charged double tuition; these booths open
doors to different options.”
These programs are not unpopular, either.
“Half of the students (who study abroad) do non-GVSU programs,” Lane added. “It’s a way to make
sure that studying abroad is accessible to everyone.”
Megan Lendman, a peer adviser at the Padnos International Center, has studied abroad twice, once in
Taiwan and once in China.
“It was exciting to know that there were so many possibilities. There were as many people there who
were interested in seeing the world like I was,” Lendman said of her experiences attending a study
abroad fair. “Seeing that GVSU supported these people made me feel more supported.”
The fair strives to be accessible to students without overwhelming them. Booths are set up to
advertise basic travel information, providing souvenirs such as maps.
“All the information can be overwhelming on paper,” Lane added. “The study abroad fair puts a face to
that. You can talk to someone who’s just gotten back from China, or Ghana. It’s about getting to know
these past participants, having those conversations. International students will also be there and can
talk (with attendees) about what it’s like to be an international student.”
Overall, the fair aims to encourage students to spend a semester or two abroad.
“(Studying abroad) can be an intimidating thing,” Lane said. “For any doubts, there’s an answer for
that. It’s not as intimidating as people perceive it to be. If people are going to see the world, college is