Many look outside U to study abroad

Kathryn Nelson

Despite resources on campus for studying abroad, many students look elsewhere.

Hundreds of travel organizations vie for student participation in study-abroad programs and many are supported by the University’s Learning Abroad Center.

Still, some organizations sidestep the center by marketing directly to students and bypass University standards.

International Student Volunteers, an organization based in Orange County, Calif., has an aggressive campaign to advertise to University students, but no affiliation with the University’s study-abroad program.

Going classroom to classroom, organization representatives give impromptu presentations on traveling to countries such as Thailand and Costa Rica. Representatives also provide informational meetings to students at Coffman Union.

Martha Johnson, associate director of education abroad programming for the center, said International Student Volunteers did not volunteer to work with the University.

The center has an established approval process that all organizations working with the center must agree to, she said.

Johnson said the center has addressed issues with International Student Volunteers on its direct marketing style.

“The hazard is we don’t know anything about (International Student Volunteers),” Johnson said.

According to center officials, programs outside of the University don’t have to follow certain policies including the requirement of international health insurance.

Simon Costain, International Student Volunteers international recruitment director, said the organization tries to work with study-abroad centers, “but to coordinate it with every University is quite difficult.”

Costain said the organization does require students to purchase an insurance policy before participating in a travel program.

“It’s one of the best programs in the world,” he said.

Some students said they were satisfied with their trips with the organization, but the experience required more personal responsibility.

Civil engineering senior Jenny Palmer used the organization to travel to New Zealand in 2005.

Palmer said she heard about the program through her roommate, who saw an International Student Volunteers presentation in her class.

While in New Zealand, she said, she spent two weeks volunteering in an environmental program and two weeks in an adventure tour bungee jumping and whitewater rafting.

“I felt like I did more in two weeks than some people do in a lifetime,” she said.

Tim Riordan said he went to Costa Rica through the organization between his junior and senior years at the University.

While there, he said, he volunteered in a sea turtle conservation program in which he monitored eggs, researched hatchlings and released them into the wild.

Riordan said predeparture health precautions, such as receiving appropriate shots, were a personal responsibility.

Riordan is now a teacher at Sage Academy in Brooklyn Park and is planning on bringing 15 students to Costa Rica because of his previous trip with the organization.

“I’m bringing in my experience to share to my kids,” he said.

If you’re interested in programs like International Student Volunteers, Johnson said she recommends working with the Learning Abroad Center.

“There are programs that we work with much closer that offer the same experience for the same cost,” she said.