EDUCATION

UM’s Study Abroad office offers tips to potential participants

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Martindale Hall. The Study Abroad Office is located in Room 318 on the third floor. By Skyler Crane.

Skyler Crane
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
sscrane@go.olemiss.edu

The University of Mississippi’s study abroad program has been active since the early 1980s, beginning with around 20 students. Now, 36 years later, the office handles more than 600 study abroad requests annually. They also welcome students from other countries who are studying abroad in Oxford.

“We have about 170 incoming students,” Study Abroad Office Director Blaire McElroy said. “Fall semester is always the most popular time for them to come to the University of Mississippi. [Incoming students] like to participate in the Ole Miss atmosphere in the fall, [which is why it’s so popular] …There are numerous opportunities for students to grow and have fun.”

McElroy is a 1998 University of Mississippi honors graduate who was a member of the Croft Institute. She studied abroad in Beijing, China during her undergraduate years and attended graduate school at Cambridge University to study law. Since then, she has been working as a UM advisor.

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Director McElroy attending to her duties. By Skyler Crane.

McElroy said her great-grandmother sparked her interest in international affairs. “She was a travel agent and would bring back exotic things from her trips to exotic places,” she said. “I still have these little things.”

The University of Mississippi offers long-term and short-term study abroad programs. Long-term programs last a semester or longer. Short-term programs are two months or less, which include all intersession offerings (winter May, and August), spring break hybrids, and summer.”

Short-term programs are divided further into faculty-directed programs and summer programs via exchange partners and/or through affiliates.

“Summer and spring programs are our most popular programs [for outgoing students],” McElroy said. “About 300 students study abroad each summer, and about 120 students study abroad in the spring.”

These exchange programs can take students practically anywhere in the world with over 90 partner institutions across the globe and can be accomplished through UM’s exchange program and their affiliate organizations.

“I usually hear these two complaints,” McElroy said. “I wish I had studied abroad, or I wish I had gone longer.”

Generally, affiliate programs are more expensive than UM’s exchange program, meaning the student pays the affiliate organization’s fees rather than UM’s tuition. But in exchange for opting for an affiliate organization’s program, the student will have access to additional items, such as housing and excursions and activities, like overnight trips or museum visits. Depending on the program chosen, costs could range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.

The Study Abroad Office uses social media to promote these services. McElroy said they have accounts on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

“We have a student blog,” McElroy said. “That’s run by Hannah Marcotte. She’s one of our graduate assistants, and she’s doing some fun things with that.

“There’s a girl in Korea right now who’s vlogging about her experiences. We didn’t ask her to do it, but she’s doing some really cools things [with the idea].”

Marcotte is one of the Study Abroad Office’s graduate assistants who helps operate the blog and other social media outlets. She is working on her master’s degree in student affairs.

Marcotte studied abroad in Ireland the summer of 2015 while attending the University of New Orleans. She started working with the Study Abroad Office in August 2016.

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Hannah Marcotte filling in for SAO’s secretary. By Skyler Crane.

“I want to work with a study abroad department,” she said. “[The Study Abroad Office] is helping me learn as much as I can so I can do that.”

Marcotte said her general experiences with the SAO office have been positive. “The Study Abroad Office here has more opportunities than the one where I did my undergrad,” she said. “They’re very patient with students who are first coming in and help students find a program that fits them.

“I send out a weekly newsletter to the international exchange students and help run the social media. I basically do anything they need me to do.”

She also assists with the University of Mississippi’s Global Ambassador program. “It’s like a mentorship or friendship role,” she said. “We pair Ole Miss students with international students to help them adjust to Oxford.”

Global Ambassadors are representatives of the University of Mississippi who help international exchange or intensive English students acclimate to life in Oxford, according to the study abroad website. The program is most active in the fall because of the higher number of international students on campus.

Before making an advising appointment, there are a few questions the Study Abroad Office wants students to ask themselves, and a few tasks they’d like them to complete. First, figure out what you want from the experience and if studying abroad is right for you.

Financial aid is also available for study abroad programs in the form of grants, academic scholarships and loans. Availability differs based on financial aid, and some grants or scholarships only apply to certain countries, term lengths, majors, and organizations.

For example, Lynda M. Shea Honors Scholarships are only available to Honors College members, and the Sue Knox Weakly Study Abroad Scholarship is only for summer programs.

Also, students’ preexisting state and federal financial aid can be transferred for study abroad programs. Scholarships and financial aid can be applied as one would normally apply them. To confirm each individual case, McElroy recommends checking with the Financial Aid Department.

“There are many scholarships available,” said McElroy, “but many are highly competitive and may have earlier deadlines.” All scholarship information can be found here.

Other useful information that’s sometimes overlooked is:

  • Students should make sure they have a passport. It’s required to travel out of the country. Talk to your study abroad advisor about specific student visa information.
  • Students should ensure their study abroad time doesn’t interfere with their graduation requirements, and they should speak to their academic advisors to make sure that doesn’t happen. Usually, class schedules can be arranged so graduation dates are left unaltered.
  • Different countries utilize different grading scales, so be aware of this shift. If you’re going abroad for a semester, you must come back with the equivalent of 12 course hours completed. Make sure to plan this with your study abroad and academic advisors.
  • Be aware of required insurance policies. It is required and can’t be waived. The Study Abroad Office enrolls all students into a comprehensive international health insurance policy through Cultural Insurance Services International. Some countries require students to enroll in country-wide insurance policies, so check with your study abroad advisor.

Finally, it’s important to note that while study abroad programs are supposed to be fun, they are intended to be educational opportunities. “Academics are the backbone of a study abroad experience,” UM’s study abroad website reads. The Study Abroad Office assures students the experience is worth it. Your excursion is what you make of it.

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