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Can Community College Students Study Abroad?

study abroad students

I’m in Philosophy 101 and am staring at the board as Mr. White screeches the chalk against the green background spelling out McGill, UMASS, Cornell, and UVM. My classmates one by one are announcing where they have been accepted for college. One student bashfully announces they’re “just” going to the local community college, and supports his statement with a brush of mumbled humility about not really caring about college anyway.

I had been told by many well educated and successful people that the price for college isn’t worth it -- that I should do two years of community college and then transfer to my college of choice once I knew what I wanted to do. But I had dreams of living the dorm life, getting the “college experience” and, most importantly, studying abroad so I ditched the advice and attended UNH for four years with a successful semester in Italy in 2010.

Even if you are in community college, that prejudice you may have might be limiting your opportunities in the first place

However, now that I can deem myself older and wiser, I have to say that I wish desperately I could’ve changed my stubborn 17-year-old mind. Because though I wouldn’t take my college experiences back for the world, I think I definitely could’ve done everything I wanted to do through community college -- even studying abroad -- but without Sallie Mae now nipping at my heels for my extravagant monthly loan payments.

So if you’re thinking about heading off to your local college but still want to study abroad, never fear -- here is some info to help you out!

But First: Myths of Community College and Study Abroad

Study abroad in community college

There seems to be a preconceived notion that community college is for underachievers but that is entirely false and truthfully needs to be changed.

Community college is usually drastically less expensive than a four-year private (or public!) school – and may even have the same professors and level of education (read the link above to understand why)!

Also, though many high school and college students aren’t thinking about loans when they apply (ehhh you’ll worry about that later when you get a job, right?), once that first bill hits your mailbox, you will cry in anguish that you now cannot fulfill those wanderlust desires you’ve had since you studied abroad -- because you now have to pay for school payments on top of a car loan, rent, and daily life.

In a study completed by the Institute of International Education in 2007, “IIE’s Open Doors 2001 report established a baseline for trends in education abroad at community colleges that reported a total of 3,941 students abroad during the 2000/01 academic year.”

This is not a large number, but it still shows that even then, community college study abroad was not out of the question.

Since then, however, that puny number of just under 4,000 students has billowed into a whopping 289,408 in only a little over a decade. This is serious, kiddos. What do those numbers mean? They mean that you can study abroad and the community colleges are working towards fulfilling those dreams in an ever-expanding global world that needs international students!

According to IIE, a total of 3,941 community college students abroad during the 2000/01 academic year.

Even if you are in community college, that prejudice you may have might be limiting your opportunities in the first place (though, because you’re reading this article, we hope that you’ve already broken through them!). If you drive to school, go to class, and drive home, you are potentially missing out on opportunities that your school provides like community activities, sports, or the study abroad office.

Take advantage of them! Though in the past, these offices have been understaffed and underwhelmed, with the influx of students interested in adventuring around the globe, these faculty members are gaining more knowledge and more insight as to how to help you find your perfect study abroad program at a price and length you can afford. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice! They may (and probably will) lead you to the experience of a lifetime!

Here are a few Community Colleges that focus on Study Abroad! Bravo, guys!

Community Colleges Have Low Cost Study Abroad Option

The other perception (and technical truth for many) is that you’re heading to community college because you don’t have thousands to spend on a university. And, when the average of a study abroad semester is said to be $17,000, studying abroad could sound impossible.

But community colleges keep this in mind and do many things to reduce the costs of studying abroad so it enables all students to participate.

Short Term Programs

short term study abroad for community college students

Though typically study abroad is perceived to be a semester or an entire year abroad, these long-term programs are not the only options available. Shorter length programs (summer and J-term) will still give you many of the benefits of going abroad, without the hefty price tag.

In 2006, over 50% of community college students took this route in order to travel, but also to keep their budget in mind -- yet all still gained an amazing experience!

Scholarships

If you do have your heart set on a traditional semester-long abroad program, there are still ways that you can reduce the cost of your travels through the multitude of scholarships specifically for study abroad, but also for community college students!

Check your local community college for school-funded scholarships like the 35 that Bunker Hill Community College provides to its students, or seek out specific scholarships targeting underrepresented students like the program at PLATO.

If you are struggling to find a scholarship that’ll fit your needs, make sure to contact your Study Abroad office and ask for assistance! They’re there to help you!

Volunteer Abroad

If you aren’t ready to take on school abroad but don’t feel that a short term study period would benefit you, you can take a different approach and look into volunteering abroad for college credit instead of studying abroad (but truthfully, you’ll still be learning plenty!) This is a feel good opportunity that can still sometimes be backed by financial aid, as well as grant you college credit for your time doing good for others!

Go Overseas is a fantastic place to start -- the entire vision for our website is to match you with the perfect study abroad program!

Plus, you’re still learning through this time abroad! You’re going to be learning by doing instead of learning by listening in a classroom, but honestly, sometimes this is an even better way to educate yourself anyway!

At this point in the article, we here at Go Overseas hope that you may have a glimmering start of the travel bug in your belly. We want you to understand that anyone and everyone can and should study abroad if they put their mind to it –regardless where that is or for how long you go. Take the time to speak with your advisors and pick out just the right program for you.

Make Your Dream Happen

Go Overseas is a fantastic place to start -- the entire vision for our website is to match you with the perfect study abroad program! If I were back in Mr. White’s classroom now, I’d stomp up to that board and sign my John Hancock under North Eastern Community College and proudly explain that I’d be heading to Italy for a year.

Be proud of what path you’re taking! There's no reason not to! Any experience is going to be a wonderful one, so grab your suitcase and start packing, you’re going places!

Photo Credits: Danielle Slowik and Madison Burgess.

Lisa Saltagi

Lisa studied in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 2010 and since has always needed to have a flight booked somewhere. After failing at office life, she flew to Italy and became a European tour-guide for a year. Now, she’s focusing on her writing while living in Florence with her husband. Check her out on Google+.