A Grand Adventure
On May 5, 2010, Grand Valley State University student Robyn Schultz’s parents watched her board the plane that would take her 14 hours away to the Nanjing Lukou International Airport in China. “Mom and Dad were anxious; this was the first time I’d been out of state without them. But they knew the trip would give me the insight I’ll need to teach the Chinese language and culture,” said Shultz.
Schultz’s study abroad experience was life changing, but like many parents, hers had questions about costs and safety. Mark Schaub, executive director of the Barbara H. Padnos International Center, has talked with hundreds of parents like Shultz’s about these concerns.
“When my son studied abroad in Japan, I knew the statistics – students are no more likely to be a victim of crime in a foreign country than they are in the U.S.,” said Schaub. “My worries were more mundane. Would he know how to cross a street in Japan? He’s a picky eater, so what would he eat? I was anxious the whole time, but it was worth the positive impact the trip had on my son.”
Schaub advises students to attend the Padnos International Center’s regular study abroad meetings to learn about the variety of study abroad opportunities, including costs and duration. “Some programs cost more than Grand Valley’s tuition. Others, like in India, are actually cheaper than a semester at Grand Valley,” said Schaub. He also recommends planning two years in advance for scholarship and financial aid application processes. Students have the option to work with study abroad advisors to have their experience count for their major, theme, or general education requirements to avoid paying for extra semesters.
“The best thing we can do as parents is to expose our children to the world,” said Schaub. “They learn how to navigate within a different culture, and this is a crucial quality that employers look for in today’s economy. As parents, we have to let our sons and daughters spread their wings. Grand Valley helps students do that through study abroad.”
For more information on study abroad programs, meeting dates, scholarships and costs, visit the Padnos International Center website or call 616-331-3898.