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“Challengers” releases in theaters on April 26.
Review: “Challengers”
Published April 13, 2024

Opinion: Is studying abroad worth it?

A conversation about the benefits of studying abroad.
Image by Ava Weinreis
The Learning Abroad Center has options for financial aid.

World traveling is a highly sought-after luxury amongst people from every corner of the planet. While some lucky ones get to experience the privilege of picking a destination abroad and having the experience of a lifetime, most of us are settling with going on Pinterest and creating travel-themed mood boards.

College students, like many, experience complications in accomplishing their travel goals. There are plenty of reasons for this, including financial barriers, academic obstacles and an abundance of personal factors, just to name a few.

I’m here to tell the financially struggling college kids that you can turn your mood boards into a reality by visiting a magical little place known as the Learning Abroad Center (LAC) at the University of Minnesota.

Ann Hubbard, assistant dean and director of the LAC, said it is important for all University students to know what financial aid options are available to them when considering a study abroad program.

“We have a really supportive policy here on financial aid applicability to studying abroad,” Hubbard said. “The staff in the financial aid office go so far to try to help students look at all the options. There are also some very affordable programs.”

While many students on campus are aware of the competitiveness of the scholarships provided by the LAC, there are other aid options available to all students that can help with the financial burden of planning your trip abroad.

Hubbard said there is an abundance of financial aid resources ranging from program scholarships to national scholarships available to all students, and the LAC would love to talk to any students with financial concerns. 

If it means anything to you, readers, I recently went on a three-week-long study abroad trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, which helped me fulfill my language requirement for my degree. I sadly returned to Minnesota, but I did so with a much clearer spring semester schedule.

I rely on financial aid to support me in my college career, and I thought that studying abroad was out of my financial limit. However, upon discovering the short-term programs that are available to students, I was able to figure out an affordable solution that would allow me to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Michael Wiltgen, a fourth-year finance major, explained that his two-week-long study abroad trip to Europe provided him with insights that will benefit him in his future career endeavors.

“I think it’s a really great experience that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do. My mindset on it was that I should probably do this now because who knows when I could make a trip like this again,” Wiltgen said. “It was very cool to see a lot of different cultural backgrounds when I was going overseas, I think that was a really unique opportunity.” 

According to the LAC Annual Report 2022-23, 70% of students on the Twin Cities campus have completed a program in a European country, 16% have completed a program in Asia & Oceania, 11% in the Americas and 3% in Africa and the Middle East. 

Additionally, the top five destinations in order of popularity were Spain, the U.K., France, Italy and Germany.

The LAC staff is actively working to promote several programs in non-European countries. However, their efforts have been met with challenges as they don’t have a definitive explanation for why students are not diversifying their traveling experience.

Ashley Metz, a program advisor at the LAC, has many experiences abroad in non-European countries and advocates for countries less traveled by the University’s students. According to Metz, each program has on-site staff there to support you.

Hubbard and Metz said they feel confident in the LAC’s resources and are proud to be a part of an office that offers mental health support for students while abroad.

It is common for students to experience a fluctuation in their mental health while completing their program abroad. These mental challenges may also follow students back to their home country as they readjust to their regular routines.

If you are concerned about how studying abroad may affect your mental well-being, the LAC has several resources to help you comfortably prepare for your travels on their website.

It may not be in the cards for every student at the University right now, but I strongly advocate for participating in a study abroad program if given the opportunity. As cliche as it may sound, it really is the experience of a lifetime.

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  • Tim Walker
    Feb 2, 2024 at 10:07 am

    Natalie: “I sadly returned to Minnesota” — I know it was a throwaway line, but the implication is a bit odd, don’t you think?