NKU around the world

NKU around the world

¡Hola!, Guten Tag, Nǐ Hǎo, Bonjour, Annyeong and Hej! These greetings are all in languages that are spoken in some of the countries Northern Kentucky University has an exchange agreement with. This academic year, around 331 NKU students will study abroad or have already done so. But why do these students decide to explore the unknown and what would speak against it? Is it worth the money and the hassle?

Nick Daley is a senior studying International Management at NKU and went to Scotland for a whole semester during his junior year. “I would definitely recommend studying abroad to other students. It really opens your eyes and it’s so much fun,” he said.

But it was not always just fun, he remembers: “Accidentally going to the wrong university the first day was a little scary. And it was a lot harder to adapt to the different culture than I thought it would be. But overall, it was very exciting and totally worth it.”

Austin Huebner, a sophomore who is studying Computer Science and Mathematics with a Minor in German, will be going to Germany over the summer and is looking forward to the experiences Daley already made. “I wanted to have the opportunity to improve my German, and I’m excited to get an experience like no other. I think going abroad is culturally eye-opening, and it’s important to have these kinds of experiences as a college student,” he said.

According to the Open Doors Report by the Institute of International Education, over 283,000 American students chose to study abroad in the academic year of 2011/2012. Back in 1989/1990, when costs were much higher and possibilities more limited, the number was only about 71,000. About 9% of all college undergraduates study abroad before they graduate. According to Anne Perry from the Office of Education Abroad, only around 330 or about 2.2% of NKU students study abroad each academic year.

“We have possibilities for a lot more students, but I think the fact that NKU is a commuter school hinders many people. Most students are working while going to school full time, and they can’t take off long enough to study abroad,” she explained. “That’s why our short term programs, for example during Spring Break, are getting more and more popular.”

Students can choose whether they want to go abroad just for the summer or during spring break, one semester or maybe even a whole academic year. The Open Doors statistics suggest that most prefer shorter options: Almost two thirds of students study abroad during the summer or an equivalent time frame, and only 3% decide to move to a different country for a whole year.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 1.45.51 PMBut where to go? Europe is the most popular destination among U.S. students. The United Kingdom, Spain and Italy alone host one third of all students studying abroad. But the opportunities are almost endless. At NKU, there are over forty countries to choose from, a variety which might seem overwhelming to some. All of them are listed on the website of the Office of Education Abroad, divided by the different programs to make the search for the right destination easier.

This year, the most popular destinations of NKU students are the United Kingdom, Cuba and Italy, according to Perry. “But this changes every year and depends on different factors,” she said. “Many students want to go to Australia, because it sounds exotic, but very few actually end up there, as it is rather expensive.”

Students who have trouble deciding can always visit the Office of Education Abroad and get help with the process. But this is not the only time students can seek help. “I’m going to Germany with the KIIS program. The Office of Education Abroad was a very important part of my application. Anne Perry, the KIIS-coordinator, helped me every step of the way,” said Huebner. Even though the application process can seem overwhelming at first, it is not always that difficult, according to Huebner. “To apply for KIIS, you simply have to pick the program that fits you and your language abilities and fill out some forms,” he said.

“Getting the money is another subject altogether,” he continued. Money issues are probably the biggest problems that students face when it comes to studying abroad. But NKU offers various scholarships to promote going abroad and make such an experience possible for more students. The Office of Education Abroad is constantly trying to increase the number of students studying abroad. Perry encourages everybody who is interested but still hesitant to come and talk to her: “Most of the time it’s because students have preconceived notions or think it’s too expensive. But with the scholarships we offer, it’s really not.”

However, studying abroad is not something everybody wants to do. Financing such a trip, ‘losing’ time and delaying graduation or leaving friends and family behind are just a few of the drawbacks. “I was focused on all my classes I had to do here. It wasn’t really a decision I made, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me,” said David Hamilton, an NKU senior who is studying Communication.

Senior Matthew McElwain is studying Computer Science and has a similar opinion: “I didn’t really have time for that, because I am just looking to get out of college as fast as possible. And I also had financial concerns. Otherwise, I probably would have done it.”

Employers usually view experience abroad very positively. “I do think it will help me find a job. Going to a different country helps solidify a language degree and it’s always a good plus when applying to jobs,” Huebner explained. Perry has a similar opinion: “It really does make a difference, because it shows employers that someone is willing to go out of his comfort zone and take risks.”

Diane Ostenkamp from the Cincinnati advertising, branding and marketing ad agency Creative Department said that employers value the fact that studying abroad shows a willingness to step out into the unknown. But she encourages applicants to be more specific about their experiences. “Simply listing the experience alone may or may not catch the eye of the hiring manager,” she said. But if the student describes how the knowledge gained from the experience transfers into benefits for an employer, it will more likely make an impact.

Students who do not want to or cannot study abroad still have the opportunity to get more familiar with different cultures right here on campus. According to current statistics of the Office of Institutional Research, there are almost 500 international students enrolled at NKU during the current academic year. Students who are interested in studying abroad should stay tuned for events in the upcoming semester, such as the Study Abroad Fair.