Study Abroad Office Debunks International Travel Myths

Upon stepping into the Elizabethtown College Study Abroad Advisor Megan Bell’s office, interested students will receive a paper titled “Myths about Studying Abroad,” which presents its reader with five false statements and then proceeds to debunk the myths.

Many of these myths can be linked to the growing number of students choosing to study abroad in May, summer and winter terms such as “study abroad will delay graduation” and “I can’t afford study abroad” and “study abroad doesn’t fit into my schedule.”

Although these are all valid reasons, Bell says that studying abroad for an entire semester makes more sense than many students realize.

To debunk the first myth, “study abroad will delay graduation,” Bell says students should start the study abroad process early. Many of the students who study abroad in May, summer or winter sessions only do so because they did not plan far enough ahead to include studying abroad, so May, summer or winter sessions become their only remaining options.

Bell’s second sheet of paper she hands potential study abroad candidates is a checklist of all of the people that a student needs to talk to in order to study abroad.

These people include the student’s academic advisor, Bell herself and Financial Aid, who are all people who will work one-on-one with students to plan a study abroad schedule that works for them, allowing them to graduate on time even if they study abroad for an entire semester.

This leads to the next myth, “I can’t afford study abroad,” which Bell says is simply untrue.

“Tuition travels with you” is the most important piece of information that Bell has to combat this dilemma. This means that for the majority of the school-approved semester or full-year study abroad options, students will only have to pay what they would already be paying to attend the College. The only extra costs would be airfare and other accommodations.

However, this only applies for fall and spring semesters—not May, summer or winter study abroad trips.

There are many scholarships, such as the $5,000 Gilman Scholarship, which is offered to students who have received the Federal Pell Grant.

Most students look at the price of the May, summer and winter study abroad trips, see that the price is lower than a normal semester or year abroad and assume that it will cost less for the entire experience.

“Students see the May, summer and winter programs as cheaper even though mathematically, the semester is the better value,” Bell said.

This is because of the tuition traveling with students and because Etown scholarships do not transfer to any program that is not fall or spring.

Yet there are some reasons why Bell says May, summer and winter programs may make sense for certain people. She says that currently 60 percent of students who study abroad do so during the May, summer and winter terms, and only 40 percent study abroad for the fall or spring semester or the entire academic year.

Many students feel confined by the heavy course load required for their major or majors, which she says is definitely a legitimate concern for some majors.

She cited engineering as being one of the most difficult majors to study abroad with, but it can work with careful planning early on.

Another reason that some people study abroad in May, summer or winter sessions is that they do not want to miss holidays at home or events on campus. Some athletes may not want to miss their sport or their training seasons in fear of losing playing time later on in their athletic careers.

Bell was a swimmer herself, and when she studied abroad during the spring of her junior year at Etown in Cheltenham, England, she missed the championships for the swim team. However, Bell says that if this is a problem for a student, they need to consider what they would gain from studying abroad versus what they would miss while they were gone.

If the activities a student would have to miss outweigh how important studying abroad is to them, they should definitely consider a May, summer or winter session.

For more information on studying abroad for a semester or one of the shorter terms, please visit

Please note: Staff writer, Meghan Kenney, originally wrote this article for The Etownian published on November 9, 2017. The Etownian is Elizabethtown College’s student newspaper. Click here to view the original article.

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