Bringing SMC study abroad program back on board

Studying abroad can be a mixed experience for students who desire cultural adventures while working towards their education and nowadays most students cannot afford to take advantage of these benefits. The insufferable economy not only affects the Santa Monica College study abroad programs, but also prevents domestic students who aim to improve their curriculum and knowledge by studying abroad.

Due to this economic climate, students tend to stray away from these programs and it seems that studying abroad has become a luxury far from being affordable.

This is not something that should affect students; especially those who wish to broaden their knowledge globally.

Recently the SMC study abroad programs were canceled due to low enrollment.

The Winter 2010 session offered three study abroad programs (Egypt, Mexico, and South Africa) to SMC students but none of them reached the minimum of the 25-participants needed to proceed with the programs.

Students who wanted to study abroad in one of these programs were not able to go due to the cancellations.

“It appears that the weak economy largely is to blame because all three programs had received inquiries throughout the Fall from interested students only to fall short as deposit deadlines arrived,” according to the Board of Trustees Sept. 6 meeting.

The Associate Students had an important role in the previous years for the study abroad program by supporting it with scholarships that totaled $68,000 for Summer 2010 alone.

But this year, mostly due to cuts of SMC’s budget, the A.S. could offer only $20,000 in scholarship support.

Though a considerable amount of money, it was not enough to support all students interested in going overseas, hence the cancellation of the programs.

The study abroad program is an essential part of SMC’s Global Citizenship Initiative, which encourages students to experience different cultures and bring back their acquired knowledge to SMC.

This has prompted the SMC Board of Trustees to discuss the importance of this program’s continuation at the Sept. 6 meeting.

It is a priority for SMC to bring the Study Abroad program back so students will be able to enjoy the benefits of studying in another country.

“Our aim is not to send 68 young people overseas…we need to send a larger number to make a difference and we know that this is one of the most influential experiences that anybody can have and achieve,” said Dr. Chui L. Tsang, President of SMC.

The study abroad program’s committees co-chairs, Nancy Grass Hemmert and Garen Baghdasarian, produced a "preliminary master plan" to improve the program by creating additional funding sources to provide study abroad opportunities to diverse students with scholarships.

The plan also assures that the program does not get cancelled again in the future.

This will give SMC students a chance to plan an educational trip abroad and gain knowledge that they can share with other SMC students.

"Using successful South Africa and Mexico-based Latin American programs as models, SMC will complete its continuing efforts to create similar centers for study abroad in both Turkey and China, with the goal of running at least one program per year in each of the four centers," according to the Board of Trustees Sept. 6 meeting.

SMC is facing a delicate financial situation and needs to wisely decide how to spend the money allocated in their budget.

“I’m going to work very hard this year to make sure that we do find a source of funding for this important project, so programs such as the study abroad program can be supported without interruption in the future,” said Tsang.

While waiting for the continuation of the study abroad program, SMC is promoting other international opportunities available to community college students at low costs, which will help SMC students plan a more educational school year.

According to the same Board of Trustees meeting, “short-term volunteer abroad tours will be offered by STA Travel in 30 countries with its non-profit agency, Planeterra."

BUNAC, another non-profit, offers work abroad programs in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and France for a short-term period.

The German government offers a work-study internship for a full year at the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for those who want to learn the German language and culture.

The International Students Center promotes several cultural, gastronomic and sports-related events to connect international students to domestic students.

Being able to participate in a study abroad program will expand a student's educational horizon as well as enhancing professional and personal life-goals.

It is certain that once a student gets the experience and knowledge from a study abroad program, the effects last a lifetime.