Posted on September 11, 2014
By GABRIELLA SHOFER
If moving to a country that doesn’t speak your native language is not scary enough, imagine navigating a second language, city and campus.
Yet conquering this challenge is what enticed Brazilian exchange student, Laura Pagano, to study at the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus this fall semester.
“I was excited to experience life in a new city and to expand my horizons by getting involved with university activities,” Pagano said.
“I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to take courses at UM’s School of Communication that aren’t offered at my university back home.”
Pagano is one of 150 international exchange students attending the university this semester, according to the Study Abroad program, who all share her zest for travel and new experiences.
The vast range of countries that these students have come from was showcased at the Study Abroad Fair this Wednesday.
From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., the lower lounge of the Whitten University Center could have easily been mistaken for an international airport, as a sea of accents offered information, advice and brochures to interested students.
Lisa Aradeon, assistant director of Study Abroad at the University of Miami, believes that the fair is crucial to encouraging more local students to study abroad in more than 35 countries.
“There are 10,000 undergraduate students at the University of Miami, yet only 200 students study abroad each semester,” Aradeon said.
“With only two percent of UM students taking semesters abroad, there is an imbalance with the number of students who want to study at UM.”
The fair provided students with the opportunity to ask questions to previous participants in the program and speak to university advisers.
Aradeon believes that the fair simplified the overwhelming amount of information received by students in their orientation week into manageable and actionable key steps.
“I think the main thing is that students are overcome by so much information during orientation and they never get the chance to explore it further,” she said.
“Having the Study Abroad Fair this week allows us to appeal to students when they are more settled and can consider their options more carefully.
“The Study Abroad office is continually asked the same bunch of questions by prospective participants.
“They’ve become so common that I created a myth flyer to hand out to students that dispels these ideas.”
These myths include questions regarding finances, course credits and language barriers.
In addition to flyers and brochures, the Study Abroad Global Ambassadors were essential in ensuring the success of the fair.
These ambassadors hold events throughout the semester to connect with students and share their overseas experiences.
“This is our second year of the Global Ambassador program and the role was formed to facilitate conversation between students about studying abroad,” Aradeon said.
“We have found students enjoy hearing from other students about their experiences.”
Melissa Soto, senior University of Miami student, has become an active advocate of the Study Abroad program since returning from her semester abroad in which she studied at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.
“My semester in Australia was amazing. I was able to travel to a place that complemented my Journalism and International Studies majors,” Soto said.
“So many students are scared away by the application process or the financial costs, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort.”
Joined by the 44 Global Ambassadors at the fair, Soto urged her fellow students to follow in her footsteps by explaining the benefits of studying abroad.
“I think it’s important to move outside of your comfort zone and experience a new culture,” she said.
“I loved it so much that I want to do another semester abroad. Now I’m stuck with the difficult decision of choosing where to go!”
The fair exhibited an overwhelming choice of programs for students, with both individually organized and structured programs being offered.
The structured programs, known as UIndia, UCape Town, UPrague, URome and UGalapagos, involve a semester abroad that includes two-week travel programs with professors from the University of Miami.
With so many programs on offer, students are not limited by options for studying abroad.
Only time will reveal if the number of students studying abroad will increase, but if the turn out at the fair is anything to go by, it will be a busy year for the Study Abroad office.