By Jessie Eikmann, Staff Writer
Normally, representatives of such vastly different places as South Korea, France, the Netherlands, and Italy do not even gather in the same room, let alone right next to each other. But the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ annual Study Abroad Fair on August 31 gave students a closely-packed, but culturally diverse, sampling of the study abroad opportunities available for UMSL students. From 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., students, faculty, and program directors had tables in the second floor rotunda of the Millennium Student Center, inviting curious students to explore just a few of UMSL’s study abroad options.
Some of the tables at the Study Abroad Fair were people from non-UMSL umbrella companies that partner with many institutions to help students find a host university and program that fits their majors. One such company was CISabroad, which sent two representatives to the fair to explain their services: Director of University Relations Operations Heidi Bohn and Regional Director Aaron Fauchet. Bohn said, “We have 22 locations around the world and we have multiple universities at each location…We’re providing the partnership with the university, we’re providing the site directors on the ground, we’re providing airport transportation and housing. We’re packaging it so a student can go and…earn credits or intern abroad and come back with that international experience that they can then apply towards the future.”
Fauchet added, “We also make it easier for students to really navigate the process of enrolling at a foreign institution. So there’s the consideration of maybe needing a visa to stay there and figuring out how to sign up for classes at a foreign institution. We have the inside knowledge for navigating that system.” Fauchet and Bohn talked about their own great experiences abroad—Bohn in an internship program in Ecuador and Fauchet in a study abroad program in France—and said that their travels made them want to, in Bohn’s words, “help students start their own journeys.”
Two of the people that seemed most excited to tell students about their study abroad program were Nicole Shores, graduate, international business and Matthew Coker, graduate, information systems. Shores and Coker went on UMSL’s first trip abroad to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the last winter intersession. Both Shores and Coker were impressed with the program and its opportunities for business majors. Coker said, “I like all of the networking opportunities we had. We got to go visit a bunch of international companies to meet with some executives…Most of the ones we visited were St. Louis-based companies.” These executives, who came from such well-known companies as Boeing and Emerson, gave presentations to the students about their companies, and the students got the chance to ask about how to navigate the regulations of doing business and starting companies overseas. As Shores explained, this is particularly relevant in the UAE. “With the UAE they have free trade zones set up where you can start a business a little bit easier than you would have to within the country…They have laws where if you do set up business and it’s not in a free trade zone, you actually have to partner with an Emirati that lives there,” Shores said. The students were also able to learn about how to deal with the cultural differences of living in a place like the UAE, where only 20 percent of the people are natives and the rest are expatriates, immigrants, and tourists.
In addition to learning some tips about international business, Coker and Shores got to experience some examples of the luxuriance and decadence of the UAE. They were treated to camel rides, belly dancers, a safari, and even an unexpected opportunity to meet Liam Neeson when he came to UAE for the premiere of “Taken 3.” And the companies they talked with pulled out all the stops to make them feel like royalty, even going so far as to pick students up for meetings in brand-new Lexuses and Mercedes. Shores said, “It’s definitely worth it. The country and the Emirates that we visited, they’re just as magnificent as they show on TV.”
While most of the tables were UMSL students and faculty that were pitching their study abroad programs, a student at one of the tables spoke from a slightly different perspective. Justine Pieau, senior, business, is a new exchange student from France who was working at the French table. She said that so far her experience in St. Louis has been drastically different from her life in France. “This is a really huge place compared to France,” Pieau said. “In my school there is just one building, and here this is a really big campus. In my school maybe there are around 2,000, and here there are maybe 15,000 or 17,000.”
Pieau is here at UMSL to complete her required semester of study or internship abroad as part of a five-year business program. She was drawn to UMSL because of its convenient location relative to the city and because of its top-rated business school. She also encouraged curious students to apply to be an exchange student, as the process is not overly complicated. “I think this is quite easy to do, just to complete some admissions papers [and] make contact with the department of languages.” She hopes to use the experience she gets from UMSL to work in accounting. Pieau said, “I would like to work in a big four, like auditing and that, and maybe create my own company, but we will see.”
According to Study Abroad Coordinator Nate Daugherty, UMSL has over 100 study abroad options in 45 countries. Of these, about 20 are short-term programs, meaning that they are two to four-week programs in the summer or the winter intersession. The rest are long-term programs, which can be for a semester or an academic year. Daugherty said, “We send about 200 students abroad every year, but that keeps going up and we hope that it keeps going up. I actually have a goal of 250 by 2019, so we’re getting there.”
He also advised students that studying abroad is not as expensive as people might think. “I’d like to make sure students know…that financial aid and scholarships are available for study abroad because most of our programs are actually earning UMSL credits and paying UMSL tuition rates, so you can use your UMSL financial aid typically [and] scholarships, too,” said Daugherty. Daugherty also said that there are a few new programs, including a political science course in Ghana, a criminology and criminal justice course in the Netherlands, and an art history and studio art course in India.
The deadline to apply for most programs in winter and spring is September 23, and the deadline for most summer and fall programs is February 23. For more information, visit studyabroad.umsl.edu or visit the Study Abroad office in room 304 of the Social Sciences and Business Building.