By Sarah Small
Saly Sebastian, senior in finance, spent her 2009 spring break on Boracay, an island in the Philippines. While she sat quietly by the sea, seemingly miles away from anyone she could possibly know, a boy wearing an Illinois T-shirt walked by. A conversation ensued and Sebastian learned her new acquaintance was also a student from ILLINOIS.
“Studying abroad makes you realize how small the world really is and how interconnected you are,” says Sebastian as she relays her story to friends.
Sebastian, who spent her Study Abroad Spring 2009 semester at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and her Spring 2008 semester at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, is one of a growing number of business students adding study abroad options to their degree program.
“The entire College of Business undergraduate staff, from the deans to the academic advisors, continuously encourages students to study abroad and stresses the importance of international experience in today’s changing business environment,” said Michelle Fogelsanger, junior in International Business and Marketing.
Fogelsanger spent her Spring 2009 semester studying at the City University Cass Business School in London.
As international cooperation becomes more and more important in the business world, an increasing trend is for business schools to send their students to study abroad, said Christine Gozdziak, director of the International Programs office for the College of Business.
“Our numbers have really been growing,” Gozdziak said.
This academic year the College of Business is sending 115 students abroad, compared with only 20 students in the academic year 2004-2005, she said.
Gozdziak helps students choose and apply for study abroad programs, and guides them through the paperwork and other logistics of going abroad.
She said many students do not study abroad because they do not realize how simple it is or how cheap it is for business students.
All of the study abroad programs through the College of Business are exchange programs, so ILLINOIS trades students with foreign universities, Gozdziak said.
“You pay tuition here but you’re going to international schools around the world,” she said.
For exchange programs, the University offers Range IV tuition for students studying abroad, where students only need to pay around $1,000 in tuition as opposed to the $6 to $12 thousand other students might typically spend for study abroad trips.
“The College of Business makes it extremely easy to study abroad simply by making it cheaper,” said Fogelsanger, “By charging only Range IV tuition, I was not limited by program costs and was able to fully enjoy my experience abroad.”
Gozdziak and other faculty in the College of Business review the business courses offered by the international universities, and determine what classes taken abroad will transfer to ILLINOIS.
She said this helps students plan their schedules around studying abroad and to ensure they are still able to graduate on time.
“The College of Business International Programs keeps good record of courses that transfer back to UIUC from each of its exchange locations,” Fogelsanger said. “So it was very easy for me to determine what courses I could take to fulfill the necessary requirements back home.”
Although credits transfer easily and the International Programs office was created to assist students throughout the process, Sebastian believes many students do not pursue study abroad because they do not know how easy the process is.
“A lot of students are unaware of all the credit transfer possibilities and think it is too difficult to accommodate study abroad in their schedules,” Sebastian said. “Some students also think it is way too expensive.”
Much of the current awareness for study abroad is being generated by business students who have already studies abroad.
One student, Muffadal Saylawala, who graduated in May 2009, traveled to over 30 countries during his time at ILLINOIS, some through study abroad opportunities, and some through independent travel. In 2008, he was honored with the Illinois Undergraduate Achievement Award, and was the first business student to ever receive this award.
“He took advantage of every single opportunity that was humanly possible, and found a way to make it happen,” Gozdziak said.
Looking to the future, Gozdziak said, she expects to see the number of business students studying abroad increase as more and more students realize the abundance of resources available to help them.
“Study abroad is the perfect opportunity to test your adaptability and independence because you are put out of your comfort zone,” Sebastian said. “You are placed in a community that will help you overcome the challenges and will teach you a lot about yourself.”