The University of Maine Study Abroad Fair took place on Thursday, Feb. 1 in Estabrooke Hall. The event kicked off the spring semester for the Study Abroad Office, as they now prepare to help a new flock of students find their study abroad wings.
Lauryl Cookson, the study abroad advisor for the university, noted the opportunity that the fair gives students to see the different directions they can go for with their study abroad experience.
“We really want them [students] to see all of the options they have,” Cookson said. “There are providers here that have different locations and then we also have all the direct exchanges. So they can really see an overwhelming amount of opportunities for them.”
According to the Director of International Programs, Orlina Boteva, the study abroad fair has been happening at UMaine for over 15 years. The Office of International Programs (OIP) sends approximately 60 students abroad each semester, and this fair is one of the many ways they get the word out about studying abroad.
“We do a lot of other recruitment methods such as Facebook and Instagram. We just started doing an Instagram takeover last semester, so students who are currently abroad can take it over and share their photos and stories with other students who are watching,” Boteva said.
While many prospective study abroad students at the fair were unsure of their exact plan, there were also students who had studied abroad already, available to answer any prospective students’ questions or concerns.
“The next step after the fair is to meet with a peer advisor so they can talk about their challenges and what they might be nervous about,” Cookson said. “Then they narrow down their program choices and meet with me.”
Fourth-year international affairs student Lee Brown recently returned from Valencia, Spain, where she studied solely in Spanish. She was tabling for the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), an organization affiliated with UMaine that helps find the perfect fit for students who want to go abroad.
“When you go abroad you get a lot of opportunities just to be immersed in the culture,” Brown said. “For example, the university I was placed with had really good volunteering opportunities, so I got the opportunity to teach English to little kids.”
Brown went to Valencia solo, and while nervous, she was glad she knew a bit of Spanish.
“Because of the language barrier, it was a little scary,” Brown said. “But I did go into the program knowing a baseline of Spanish. I think knowing the language, even just a little bit, for whatever country you’re going to, is really beneficial.”
There are many reasons students are deterred from studying abroad. One of the biggest concerns is the cost.
“There are scholarships that they [students] can apply for,” Cookson said. “Some of them are through our office, some of them are scholarships that are in affiliation with the provider. All financial aid from the university can be applied. The only thing that can’t be applied is work study.”
This semester will be more of the same for the OIP as they now begin another round of trying to help students find their dream program.
“I would say Australia and England are definitely big ones. Spain is always huge,” Cookson said. “We follow along the lines of the national trends of going to traditional locations. But Costa Rica is also popular.”
The Office of International Programs is located in Estabrooke Hall, Room 240. There, students can begin meeting with a peer advisor and figuring out where they want to go and which classes they want to take.