New study abroad programs take flight

Nithya Eluri
Mercury Staff

The new international education program is seeking to make study abroad more affordable for students by offering a variety of programs at a reduced price.

Dean of Graduate Education Juan Gonzalez said UTD enhanced its international education program to include 12 faculty-led program options, taking place from May to August. The programs are purposefully curated to give opportunities to students who might not otherwise participate due to financial and degree plan difficulties. Among programs offered include Moroccan History in Rabat, Morocco, Professional and Technical Communication in Florence, Italy, Medical Spanish Immersion in Seville, Spain, and Molecular Evolution in the Galapagos and Ecuador. UTD faculty who are professionals in their respective fields will lead the courses.

“I took a work trip to Scotland, which was my first trip abroad,” Gonzalez said. “It opened my eyes; it made me realize my mind was too closed, that there are things in this country that work great but there are things in other countries that work even better than they work here, and that there are differences and that we need to embrace those differences. I realized how important this experience is and how important it is to have this experience as early as possible.”  

Gonzalez noted finances as the most common concern holding students back from education abroad. To combat this challenge, a key focus of the program is to make it as affordable as possible. Besides annual UTD tuition costs, fees for the May programs will not exceed $1,000 while fees for June and July will not exceed $1,500. Gonzalez also assured that there will be scholarships, which include $1,000 for nonfinancial need students and $2,000 for financial need students.

“We found ways to subsidize some of the costs internally,” Gonzalez said. “So, we’re taking care of the faculty salary, travel expenses of the faculty, some other expenses with using the classroom, museums and perhaps buying metro tickets.”

To encourage students to engage with these expanded programs, program leaders strive to increase involvement from faculty. Professors have close relationships with students and can best understand students’ preferences and backgrounds. Gonzalez said leaders plan to work with faculty to pitch their ideas for subjects and program locations. He hopes keeping faculty engaged through this process will motivate them to have an extended presence at the university, allowing them to create more meaningful connections with students.   

“One thing is going to a class for an hour and a half three times a week. Spending four or five weeks with a faculty member in a different country is another,” Gonzalez said. “You get to know that person. You really get to interact. It’s a deep connection that will continue paying off as letters of recommendation and extra advice from the faculty member. And I think that is something many of our faculty really want to do. They really want to be engaged at a different level with our students, and this affords them that opportunity to do that.”  

However, Gonzalez said the opportunity for reduced cost will only apply if each program has at least 15 students. Students often turn a blind eye to such information as they have preconceived perceptions of studying abroad and its finances. But program leaders are pushing for students to appreciate the affordability of the programs and apply to ones that resonate with them.

“So, I need those programs to make it, to sell it to the administration to make sure that these programs will keep expanding and going to be here for the future,” Gonzalez said. “My biggest challenge is convincing students that they can afford this, that they can do it, that it is viable and something they should do. They should consider it part of their educational experience.” 

Students can find a comprehensive list of all the programs on the Comets Abroad program on the UTD website. To apply, students must complete a short essay question and other travel-related questions.


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