Don’t make studying abroad absolute requirement for students

Thasin Kamal, Columnist

Studying abroad is a great opportunity to broaden students’ horizons. However, not all students may feel ready or are able to do so thanks to a variety of reasons, such as lack of experience and financial burdens.  

For certain majors at UT, studying abroad is a requirement for students to graduate, like the College of Liberal Arts’ International Relations & Global Studies major. It makes sense why a major like this would want students to study abroad. However, no student should feel forced to travel abroad in order for them to study what they desire.  

UT should lift its study abroad requirements, inform students about alternatives available in cases of extenuating circumstances and focus more on encouraging and preparing students who can study abroad.

A Maymester is the shortest time period that students can study abroad. However, Maymesters still last three to four weeks, and many students have circumstances that make it difficult to travel abroad, like taking care of family members. Students should not have to prioritize studying abroad over things that might be of more importance to them. 

Economics freshman Mizla Shrestha expressed her opinion on not being able to fulfill a study abroad requirement. 

“It definitely shouldn’t be a thing prohibiting you from graduating. I feel like that’s pretty unfair, especially if you don’t have the financial means,” Shrestha said.

Students should not think that a studying abroad requirement is non-negotiable in order to graduate. They should be aware of different alternatives available to them if they are unable to study abroad, like volunteering at a refugee center. However, many students are not aware of these alternatives.         

Michael Anderson, director of the International Relations and Global Studies major and associate professor of instruction, said he was open to discussing alternatives so students with extenuating circumstances could have an educational experience that got as close as possible to the spirit of a study abroad trip.  

“I would urge students to work with the advising staff (at) Education Abroad within Texas Global, (as) they are really good and adept and trained at finding the right match for students,” Anderson said. “Texas Global can work with those students to find places and experiences that would not throw them into the deep end … but rather build up.” 

Alternatives should be discussed under the degree requirements page to increase student awareness. Students should also regularly receive emails from Education Abroad about study abroad opportunities and financial aid available to them. Education Abroad can encourage students to start planning their study abroad trip ahead of time and stress its importance.  

For some students, the process of preparing to study abroad may seem very overwhelming, and they may be unsure on how to start. 

Professors can regularly remind students to make appointments with staff at Education Abroad to discuss their options. Professors who have experience with trips abroad can discuss their experiences, what they have gained from them, the positive feedback they have received from students who have studied abroad and encourage students to discuss their experiences with one another. These discussions can encourage students to make a trip abroad, but should not make them required.      

Helping students feel ready and confident can lead to a greater number studying abroad. UT should lift study abroad requirements and instead focus more on letting students know about all their options, encouraging them and preparing them the best they can.

Kamal is an international relations and global studies and economics sophomore from Irving, Texas.