Study abroad opportunities await SMC students

Imagine swimming with humpback whales, uncovering an ancient burial cave, and even finding a soul mate. In addition to witnessing “seven or eight marriages that have come from these trips,” Ed Tarvyd, Santa Monica College marine biology and zoology professor, can recite dozens of memorable moments from his experiences abroad.

With study abroad programs reduced to near nonexistence at SMC, there are still a number of other services that can take students across the world.

Tarvyd will take 18 students to the Galapagos Islands in January.

“Go in recognizing that there are a wide variety of programs,” says Pete Morris, SMC geography professor and co-chair of the college’s Global Citizenship Council.

Morris recommends that students consider the kind of experience they are seeking, whether it is college credit, or “some kind of life-changing experience.”

Students and teachers looking to travel on a budget can find deals on flights, hotels and trains across Europe through STA Travel. In addition to personal planning tools, the company offers several study abroad programs.

IIEPassport’s website has an extensive, searchable list of trips abroad for students, as well as a separate site that deals with scholarships. Similarly, California Colleges for International Education’s website offers a database of study abroad programs.

The British Universities North America Club is geared toward intern and volunteer work for students around the world.

But there is more to studying abroad than just choosing a program.

“You want to learn about the culture before you go,” says Keshia Nash-Johnson, a second-year student at SMC.

She speaks from her own experience of studying in Japan through a homestay program.

“Certain cultures won’t tell you if you’ve offended them, so you have to pay attention to what you’re doing,” says Nash-Johnson.

Tom Blair, director of the European Studies Association at City College of San Francisco, suggests that students studying abroad should be “really aware of where they are going to be in the city.” Some programs hold residences in the suburbs of the destination city.

Paris, France draws about 150 students of varying ages and backgrounds to study abroad through a program led by Blair.

In terms of SMC’s own programs, there are several in the works. Trips to Turkey and China are being planned, and faculty members hope to eventually set up international “centers” in various countries throughout the world, according to Morris.

“We do plan to offer these programs again,” says Morris.

Such excursions can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000, depending upon the city and the travel agency.

“It’s worth the money,” says Nash-Johnson.

Tarvyd, who has traveled the world, encourages students to take opportunities to study abroad.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” says Tarvyd.