Have you ever sat on your computer and seen pictures of a faraway country and thought “I want to go there”? Do you have dreams of visiting Paris, or Rome, or London? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to study in another country?
At Fitchburg State, tucked away on the third floor of the Hammond Building, there is an office of people that want to help you quell your wanderlust. The Office of International Education may be small, but it makes big impacts on some students lives.
The job of the office is two-fold. All of the students who come to the university from around the world, from countries like India, Nepal, Vietnam, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have to go through the office in order to study at Fitchburg State. It’s a complicated process, and the staff works hard to help the students with the many government documents from the US and their home countries. It’s a long procedure, and involves lots of sensitive paperwork and many pieces of international mail, but the staff smoothes it out as much as possible.
The Office of International Education is a portal of sorts; from our country to the rest, and back again. Tracey Sarefield has been with the University for a few years now, and has sent many students all over the world. Sarefield says, “Fitchburg State has partnerships with schools in Italy, China, and two in Germany, one in Kleve – Fitchburg’s sister city – and the other in Stuttgart,” that you can directly enroll in for a semester, a summer, or a year. They also have agreements with other study abroad providers with roots in almost every country, so that you can go in whatever direction your compass points.
Although traveling is expensive there is a plethora of ways that the University and the Office of International Education have been able to make it more affordable. There are scholarships available and many students can use financial aid to go abroad, which the office can help with also. The many benefits of studying abroad extend to after graduation as well. When applying for jobs, it’s a bright spot on your resume when you mention that you’ve been abroad. Sarefield adds, “It will change a student’s perspective on everything.” In fact, there are hardly any downsides to going abroad, besides the understandable anxiety that comes from going through an international airport and getting from there to your destination.
The most popular country for Fitchburg State students to visit is Italy. You don’t even have to know the native language to go abroad. Many do study the language at Fitchburg before leaving, but the classes can be either in English or the native language. Many students who go abroad in Europe don’t stay only in their original city. Once there, it’s easy to hop on a train to another country.
A student going for a semester can take four classes or one or two classes if they go on a faculty led program – in which Fitchburg staff go along with you and have their own curriculums that usually involve the foreign place. Of course, the International Ed office makes sure to prepare its students before they go abroad.
Do you have more questions? You can see all of your options at the upcoming Study Abroad Fair on February 26th. Located in the Hammond Building on the ground floor, you can meet with the school coordinators and see what you can do to get out of the country and expand your horizons.