Study Abroad Beckons to Rutgers Students

Study Abroad Beckons to Rutgers Students

Intrigued? Now’s the time to take the first step for spring semester programs
Study Abroad Beckons to Rutgers Students

Credit: Courtesy of Shadi Mousavi
Rutgers student Shadi Mousavi takes a break during her junior year travel abroad.

Shadi Mousavi of Howell
has been hooked on international travel since age 12, when she visited Belgium
and Iran with her family. But a eureka
moment last year in Brussels
propelled her experiences into a whole new dimension.

The Rutgers
political science major was spending her junior year studying international
relations in Brussels and French literature in Paris. “At first it was
frustrating because my host family in Brussels
spoke absolutely no English, and there would be misunderstandings,” Mousavi says.
“Then one night at dinner, I realized, I understand what they’re saying. And
they understand me, too.  It really
increased my confidence in communicating in French.” 

Mousavi’s experiences
spurred her to begin working this fall as a Rutgers Study Abroad outreach intern,
encouraging others to make the leap from New
Jersey student to world traveler. “A lot of students
are scared to go,” says Mousavi. “Students would rather hear what it’s like
from another student who’s done it.”

Rutgers Study Abroad offers more than 100 programs in 38
countries. This year, 700 Rutgers students will study overseas.

For those
considering study outside the United
States now is the time to act, as October 1is the application deadline for spring semester programs. The first step
is a visit to the Study Abroad office on College Avenue in New Brunswick, where staff members – all
seasoned travelers – are available to help. 

 “We offer more than 100 programs in 38
countries,” says Lauren Randolph, director of the Rutgers Study Abroad office.
“They can be for the semester, the summer, or all year long. In many cases,
students don’t have to speak the language of the host country, as often the
language of instruction is English.” 

Randolph was
bitten by the international travel bug as a Douglass College student in 1981,
when she spent her junior year studying at the University of Florence. “It gave
me a great appreciation for other cultures and a wider world,” Randolph says. “You learn
self-reliance, and how to get around.” 

Italy remains the
No. 1 destination for Rutgers Study Abroad students, followed by the United Kingdom, Australia,
Germany, and France.
New programs this year are being offered in Egypt,
Jordan, Brazil, Chile, and many other locations

Rutgers Study
Abroad also offers International
Service Learning
, which combines academic study with


Mary Rodriguez's lively view of Brisbane, Queensland, captured honors in the 2010 Study Abroad program photo competition.

practical, hands-on volunteering.
From Oaxaca, Mexico, where students work in a local HIV clinic, to Cochabamba,
Bolivia, where they run workshops on human rights, the experiences are

Service Learning is arguably one of the best kinds of international experience
because it is so intensely, deeply immersive,” says Stephen Reinert, associate
professor of history and dean of Rutgers Study Abroad.  “Students work with communities on issues and
problems of importance to them, with extensive interpersonal contacts and hence
deep exposure to their languages, cultures, problems, dreams, aspirations, and

Reinert says
scholarships are available to assist the increasing numbers of students
interested in participating in the programs. 

This year, nearly
700 Rutgers students will study abroad, about
double the number from a decade ago. Once limited primarily to foreign language
majors, today’s programs include students studying math, computer science, engineering
and other fields. 

 “It can be a big stretch for students who have
never been outside New Jersey to go to the University of Ghana,” Randolph says.
“We provide a lot of advising for students, including a pre-departure
orientation and support to help them acculturate and to make their experience
really worthwhile.” 

Randolph says many students miss out
because they mistakenly believe studying abroad is unaffordable. “You can
actually choose programs that are less expensive than a semester at Rutgers by
going, say, to China.  Some cost about the same, for example,
programs in South Africa, Ghana, or Israel. And some are more
expensive, like the programs in London.”  

Part of Randolph’s job is risk
management: keeping an eye on world events 365 days a year. “We did have to
withdraw students last semester from Egypt
during the uprising,” says Randolph.
“We monitor all program sites on a continual basis. Even a traditionally safe place
like Western Europe needs to be watched, as we’ve seen recently with the riots
in London.” 

Randolph says
that while on the upswing, the number of students who opt to study abroad
represents a tiny fraction of the students who can benefit from the program –
namely, all of them. “The students come back so much more mature,” Randolph says.
“They come back as global citizens, with a greater cultural perspective, and
with the kind of skills employers are looking for.” 

Mousavi says she
may join the Peace Corps after graduation. “I can’t stop traveling. I know
there’s so much out there I can learn,” she says. 

 “It is
transformative,” Randolph
agrees. "Over and over again, that is what
returning Study Abroad students will tell you. 
It was the best thing they ever did.”