Studying abroad for less: GVSU offers programs that cost less than typical semester in Allendale

GV offers programs that cost less than typical semester in Allendale

By Tylee Bush | 3/19/18 12:20am

GVL / Courtesy - Padnos International Center

Many students do not study abroad during college because they think it is too expensive and they would never be able to afford it. But at Grand Valley State University, there are study-abroad programs that cost less than a typical semester in Allendale.

From Chile to China, Ghana to Germany, and Taiwan to Turkey, there are countless destinations available to GVSU students at a minimal cost. Inexpensive trips offer credits for a variety of majors and degrees, and they range in duration from two weeks, four to 11 weeks and even semester long. Many students who choose these trips end up saving more money than they would have if they had done the semester at GVSU.

The Padnos International Center (PIC) is a free resource on campus for students to receive study-abroad advising and guidance. Peer advisers in the PIC office are experienced and trained to find inexpensive study-abroad programs to make study abroad possible for any student. Advising is available on a drop-in basis—appointments are not necessary—so students can stop by the office in Lake Ontario Hall, Room 130, at any time.

Meaghann Myers-Smith, study-abroad adviser at the PIC, is passionate about making study abroad an option for any student. 

“We like to highlight those less expensive programs so that the opportunity is accessible to any student here if they can be flexible with the destination,” she said. 

Myers-Smith said many students automatically look into the most popular study-abroad locations, such as the United Kingdom, Western Europe or Australia, and are immediately turned away by the cost. 

“Thinking outside the traditional destinations is where you find these less expensive programs,” she said.

Myers-Smith recommends using the PIC peer advisers because when you’re looking on your own, you don’t know where to start and tend to gravitate toward those traditional destinations. Peer advisers, though, are good at helping students do the research and realize how many experiences are available to them for feasible costs.

Alissa Lane, outreach coordinator at the PIC, is also eager to help students achieve a once-in-a-lifetime study-abroad experience. According to Lane, “students see the price tag but don’t always think about the comparison to how much it costs at GVSU.”

A typical semester at GVSU ranges from $11,000 to $13,000 for students living on campus. Lane said when staff members at the PIC determine the listed cost for a study-abroad program, they consider everything from tuition, housing, food, airfare, public transportation and even spending money. So, any study-abroad trip with a bottom-line cost equal to or less than roughly $13,000 is a trip that would be less expensive than a semester in Allendale or Grand Rapids. 

The PIC also offers more than $200,000 in scholarships to GVSU students who study abroad, and there are plenty of additional resources available, including departmental scholarships such as those in the international relations department, nationally competitive awards through the Office of Fellowships and more.

Myers-Smith said it is important that student know they can use their GVSU financial aid packet toward study-abroad costs, even for non-GVSU programs. When she was a student, Myers-Smith was intimidated by the study-abroad price tag until someone told her she could use her financial aid. This is why she wants students to know that the majority of scholarships, federal loans, and even the MET and Pell grant can be used to study abroad.

It is recommended that students start their scholarship search at least a year before going abroad, or even sooner. Some students have even gotten their whole semester abroad covered in scholarships and aid, so the earlier you start the better. The PIC hosts funding workshops every month where students can learn more about their financial opportunities and even gain some tips on being frugal.

Lane and Myers-Smith offered advice to students on how to cut study-abroad costs while traveling. 

“Experiences are so much more valuable than half of the stuff you can buy,” Lane said. 

When she studied abroad, Lane fell in love with travel and soon realized that Western consumerism is overrated. 

“You won’t remember ‘things' half as much as the experiences that you have through study abroad," she said.

Myers-Smith added that many students exhaust unnecessary expenses by traveling from city to city while they are abroad.

“Students should stay put in the city and country that they’re studying in in order to foster relationships with local people and get to know the culture and language," she said. "Hopping around to other cities might make them miss out on connections in their study-abroad city."

Myers-Smith wants all GVSU students to know that study abroad is accessible to everyone. 

“It’s not just an opportunity for students with needs or for the elite," she said. "If you can fund a semester here at Grand Valley, then you can study abroad.”

Students can visit to find a complete list of study-abroad programs with less expensive fees.

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