Troy’s Study Abroad Club (SAC), formed just last semester, aims to connect international students and Americans who may be interested in studying abroad, as well as to get more students interested in studying abroad.
The SAC gives Americans the opportunity to meet students from other countries and interact with different cultures, therefore gaining a better appreciation and understanding of the world beyond what they have experienced in the U.S.
Students meet to discuss opportunities as well as experiences of studying in foreign countries.
“We saw a huge need to increase the attendance of those going abroad, so we first met with the head of the international department about fixing this issue and decided to develop Troy SAC,” said Austin Willingham, a senior communication major from Decatur, and president of the club.
Maria Friggie, director of Troy Abroad, is the adviser for the newly formed club.
“We figured this club would be a good platform for them to talk about foreign studies,” Frigge said. “That way they can hear how it was for the student in another country, what kind of schools they went to abroad, things to think about.
“We also invite international students. We have a lot of students from our exchange partners, so if they decide to go to school with our partner schools, they might have it easier to go to school in that place for a semester knowing that there are friends in the same university there.”
“You can’t beat the experience of being immersed in another culture for an extended period,” said Jenna Viets, a junior communication major from Dothan, and vice president of the SAC. “There’s nothing like it, and you won’t come back the same.
“There’s also the fun of traveling, the delight of new friends, sometimes the ability to hone a language skill, not to mention how studying abroad makes you stand out when searching for employment.”
Frigge also discussed the importance of studying abroad when it comes to the job hunt.
“Studies have shown that 97 percent of students who went on a study abroad got a job within 12 months compared to 46 percent of students who didn’t study abroad, so obviously going to study abroad more than doubles your chances of getting a job within 12 months,” Frigge said. “And the same thing if you are going to go to a graduate school — you need something that stands out in your application.”
Frigge says it is more than just fun and games, but that it helps students on a professional and academic level.
Individuals have the opportunity to be immersed in new cultures, which gives students the chance to adapt to foreign languages on a different level. Those are things she encourages students to do while getting academic credit for it.
A major concern for students wishing to pursue education in another country is the financial costs for the foreign college. However, Troy makes accommodations for those students as a way of encouraging the university’s global emphasis.
“If you go to one of Troy’s partner schools for a semester or a year, any tuition scholarship you get here will be applied abroad, and the university offers a $750 study abroad scholarship to most students who study abroad,” Viets said.
The club also hosts fundraisers in hopes of being able to provide scholarships for study abroad programs.
“We have only had one so far,” Frigge said. “It was a night at the Double Branch. We had a party there and managed to get some funds from that night.”
She also said that the club is looking into more opportunities with a goal similar to that one: to raise scholarship funds.
There are other scholarships offered by the university for any student who wants to go abroad, depending upon the time the student plans to study there. The scholarships are promoted through Troy University “TroyAbroad” Facebook page.
For example, any student with a 2.5 GPA can apply for the Chancellor’s Award for Global Competitiveness, and the Gilman Scholarship is open to all students eligible for federal grants.
“A lot of students assume they wouldn’t be able to graduate in time if they studied abroad, but it’s actually a lot more accessible than you might think,” Viets said. “The credits you earn abroad count toward your degree here, and you get to choose the classes that best suit your major. It’s definitely something worth looking into.”
The Study Abroad Club holds its meetings at 5:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month to discuss upcoming events and fundraisers. Interested students can get more information by requesting to join the Facebook group “Troy Study Abroad Club.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the SAC is hosting a “speed-friending” event at the Arboretum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“Appetizers and drinks will be provided,” Viets said. “It’s free for members and $2 for nonmembers. Everybody is welcome!”