Caroline Rocha, Contributing Writer
The International Student Center sits at the end of a long, winding corridor in room C-102, where Professor Amparo Codding welcomes all students who have any questions or are interested in studying abroad.
Professor Codding, who is a study abroad advisor, is deeply passionate about helping students who are interested in getting their education abroad while at Bergen Community College, and she tries to reach them from their very first semester. She says that in order to leverage all opportunities, from choosing programs to picking dates to gathering financial resources, students should plan accordingly, ideally a year in advance, however, there are always options available for those just hearing about study abroad.
On average, two students study abroad per semester, while summer programs receive half a dozen at a time. Yet these are surprisingly low numbers for a program that caters to Bergen Community College students’ degree requirements and offers a unique experience which many call life-changing. Most students qualify for these programs. Eligibility is as straightforward as having a minimum 2.5 GPA, being a full-time student, and completing one semester at BCC. It’s important to note that for students completing their first semester, it is still possible to be eligible. With more than 25 countries and over 90 programs to choose from, there is something for every student and every degree.
Often, Professor Codding suggests students leave their humanities and social science credits for study abroad because it broadens the choice of countries since those subjects are the easiest to match. Students can easily fulfill six to seven credits on a short summer program in the country of their choice. Meanwhile, semesters abroad can fulfill 12 to 18 credits. Language is never an obstacle when choosing a program; a student will take foreign language courses if studying in a country where the main language is not English, but they can begin at any level, from elementary to advanced. If the program is not language intensive, classes are taught in English as well.
One of the great things about studying abroad at BCC is access to student services. As the BCC website states in their study abroad section, students receive “orientation, on-site support and academic counseling, social activities, field trips and excursions.” Not only do you have contacts and support with CCIS—The College Consortium for International Studies—for your program in your host country, but Professor Codding is always an email away with any concerns for students. In addition, your progress at BCC and abroad are made to work together. All credits taken abroad are transferred to BCC, count towards your degree, and make up part of your college transcript, so you don’t miss out on or delay your graduation requirements. Cost-wise, if you have a scholarship or financial aid at BCC, it can be transferred to pay for your study abroad program.
In fact, most students who inquire about study abroad have a concern over program costs, which for certain countries and depending on the length of the program, are more expensive than if they were to study directly at Bergen Community College. Yet, financial aid is one of the sections with the most information on the school’s study abroad website page. If students follow through with Professor Codding, who is there to work with students’ application process from the very beginning, there should be no shortage of grants and loans that make it possible to not only study abroad but pay an amount that doesn’t add financial stress to the experience. Professor Codding broke down the amount two people were able to accumulate in financial aid and scholarships. Each student received $13,000 for their own respective programs, cutting the cost dramatically and making their semester abroad less expensive than their semester at Bergen.
With scholarships such as the Funds for Education Abroad, the Gilman Scholarship, the Boren Awards for International Study, the Critical Language Scholarship and Go!Overseas, there are plenty of scholarships to choose from and apply to. By applying on time and making sure to meet the early deadlines, the issue of cost is no longer holding anyone back from studying abroad, and suddenly a world, quite literally, of opportunity presents itself.
You get to live and experience the world through a different perspective, often one that is very different from what we know, so you broaden your view and understand your own culture through a different set of eyes. Whether placed in a host family, a household that fosters you during your studies or in dormitories, you experience new cultures unbeknown to you previously. You sharpen your intercultural communication skills and build a global resume. While you learn how to adapt to your new environment, you explore the role you play within the global community. Throughout your journey far away from home, you grow your sense of independence and self-confidence. If there’s one word that students use to describe their year, semester, or summer abroad, it’s “transformative.” And for all the previous reasons, I went to the international student center to find out more about studying abroad and ended up applying for a program in the next school year. If you’re interested in studying abroad, don’t hesitate to find out more. It might just be the best decision you make while studying at BCC and now is the time to explore new horizons.
Professor Codding is holding information sessions for any interested students and their parents in Room C-102 of the Pitkin Education Center. To take place on Wednesday, March 25 at 3 p.m. and on Friday, May 1 at 11 a.m.