Nestled in building 1, room 104, the International Center encourages students of all disciplines to stop by and explore the options for studying abroad being offered.

To aid with that, the center hosts weekly information sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays during U-Hour to discuss the different types of study abroad programs that are available.

“When students learn just that general information about study abroad programs at Cal Poly, they’re able to see that there’s a ton of choices,” said Grace Olguin, the study abroad advisor.

The International Center also conducts regular workshops, meetings and events throughout the year, the largest annual event being the Study Abroad Fair in the fall as part of International Education Week.

The center offers four study abroad programs: faculty-led programs, exchange programs, California State University international programs and independent programs.

Not all of these programs require an extensive amount of time away from home, however, which is a misconception that Olguin is aware of.

“Some students work full time or they have responsibilities at home, [so] they think they can’t study abroad,” said Olguin.

But in fact, the center offers some programs that are only nine or 10 days long, this year to Canada, South Korea and Costa Rica. Two-week, six-week and 10-week long programs to other countries are also available.

Many of these short-term programs are faculty-led programs for which a faculty member proposes to teach a class abroad. For example, a business professor could teach a business class in Germany instead of at CPP, and students could take that class in Germany together.

Faculty-led programs are, according to Olguin, a popular option for those who have commitments at home or are afraid of becoming homesick.

Olguin thinks that the misconception that all programs are a year long and are expensive may drive students away from the prospect of studying abroad, but in actuality, studying abroad is a lot more possible than students think.

“There’s a ton of different options,” she said.

By studying abroad, students are able to earn academic credit for their degrees in an international setting. According to Olguin, in the process, they undergo some personal growth as they become more culturally aware and acquire a global perspective.

Andrea Ortiz, a senior management and human resources transfer student, studied abroad in Hong Kong and Dubai under a two-week faculty-led program. The short length of the program caught her attention, since it accommodated her full-time job.

Ortiz stated the experience has given her a humbler cultural perspective.

“There’s so much value in other countries, not necessarily in wealth, but in culture and just the way people treat each other in different places in the world,” Ortiz said about her experience abroad.

Being placed in an unfamiliar environment, Ortiz learned how to be more observant and the importance of being open-minded. She also learned about new customs such as dressing styles, what foods people eat and how to eat them.

“That’s where the humility comes from,” she said.

Gabrielle Kantarovich, a third-year hospitality management student, studied abroad for four months in Scotland where she met people from different parts in the world with different cultures and backgrounds.

For Kantarovich, studying abroad allowed her to experience finding common ground with people of different cultures. It came from, for example, being taught words in French and Italian from French and Italian classmates and overstepping her comfort zone to dive into a new food culture.

“It’s taking those new culture shock experiences and then ultimately saying, ‘Hey, look, I tried this, I actually really enjoy it and it changed my life,'” Kantarovich said. “I feel a little bit changed from it”definitely a change, but for the better.”

Both Ortiz and Kantarovich felt the transition to study abroad was smooth, as the International Center prepared them for what was to come.

Kantarovich encourages students not to worry too much about finances, since the center offers many scholarships.

“Just go through the process with no reservations,” she said.

Approximately 250 students a year take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. Kraig Walkup, the study abroad and exchange coordinator, hopes to see that number rise in the future.

“In terms of our overall student population, it’s a very small percentage,” said Walkup. “We’d like to see that grow.”

Walkup also understands that academic and financial challenges may prevent students from deciding to take the first step to study abroad, but Walkup and Olguin both note that along with potential financial aid, many scholarships are available for students.

Additionally, considering the exchange rate is currently favorable to the dollar, Walkup says that now is the best time to study abroad.

“You’ve got to go when you’ve got to go, but it’s just that right now is a better time,” he said. “[Students] will get more for their money.”

Walkup and Olguin also encourage more students with STEM majors to study abroad, since many STEM students may opt out of doing so due to their difficult curriculum.

They assure that the study abroad program offers programs that suit any major.

Ultimately, Olguin advises students with academic or financial challenges or even just uncertainty to come by the International Center for an information session. Students can then decide based on what they learn about the programs and speak one-on-one with an advisor.

“That’s what we’re here for”to find the right fit for every student,” said Olguin.

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