Planning ahead is key to study abroad

The Learning Abroad Center can help students meet strict travel deadlines.

by Elizabeth Giorgi

Last-minute planning is not recommended for most aspects of college life, and traveling abroad is no exception.

Rules and regulations in many countries have changed over the years in an attempt to keep students safer. University officials recommend that students research learning abroad experiences ahead of time to ensure their visa and other travel requirements are met well in advance.

The rules and regulations the United States has put in place to secure its borders sometimes are used in other countries to increase security, said Kathleen Sellew, associate director in the Office of International Programs.

“If we put a requirement on visas such as fingerprinting,” she said, “… some countries may put the same requirement on the U.S.”

The requirements for travelers are different based on the purpose of the trip as well as the amount of time a traveler will spend in that country, Sellew said.

Spain’s government requires travelers to attend a personal appointment at the nearest consulate as part of the visa application process, she said.

This means a Minneapolis resident would have to travel to Chicago for a personal appointment in order to obtain a visa.

However, the increased requirements in Spain have become less of an issue for University students because the Learning Abroad Center assists in the process of obtaining a visa, said Trish Blomquist, associate director in the Learning Abroad Center.

“In our situation, it doesn’t affect students,” she said.

Generally, she said, a student applying to study abroad will not be denied his or her visa.

The Learning Abroad Center assists students in the application process in various ways, depending on the trip they will take, she said.

Typical residents would have to schedule an appointment to drop off and pick up their applications in person at the consulate.

However, the Learning Abroad Center has alleviated that stress for students who are going to be studying with programs such as the Toledo program, said Holly Zimmerman, program director in the Learning Abroad Center.

The University offers the pick-up and drop-off services for students who are planning to study in Toledo, because it is the only program large enough for the consulate to allow that service, she said.

Another aspect that has been changed in the Learning Abroad Center is the timeframe in which students can apply. Previously, students were allowed to apply 90 days before departure to Spain; now the application time limit has been lifted, said Kate Moss, program associate in the Office of International Programs.

The most important aspect of studying abroad is to start looking at the requirements early, Moss said.

“Most study abroad programs will have resources for you to help you get ready,” she said.

Senior Spanish studies student Elizabeth Wilkinson visited Spain for the 2004-2005 academic year.

The first part of the process was to visit the Learning Abroad Center and start researching early, she said.

Wilkinson said the application was “a pain to complete,” but planning the process in advance can ensure it is finished in time.

“Pay attention to deadlines and pay attention to what the study abroad programs are saying,” she said. “These offices are aware of current travel issues and current regulations.”