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Campus Life: Study Abroad Zoom Sessions

February 26, 2022

The Office of International Programs held an open Zoom session on February 22, 2022 for Northeastern Illinois University’s (NEIU) Study Abroad Program, encouraging students to make the most of their college experience.

         Justice Studies Professor and Interim Director of the Office of International Programs (OIP), Cris Toffolo, led the Zoom session. There were 13 Zoom attendees including students and a student’s parent. Toffolo spoke for about 30 minutes, screen shared a PowerPoint on NEIU’s Study Abroad Program then left 15 minutes for questions via the Zoom chat for some and microphone unmuting for others. 

         Toffolo opened the presentation, saying, “So what is study abroad? It means living and taking courses, or doing an internship, in another country for a whole semester or doing a short study tour.” Study tours are directed by NEIU faculty providing their students with interactive, out-of-classroom learning experiences.

         Toffolo then detailed the many benefits of studying overseas like learning a new language, gaining skills for the workplace after graduating, making life-long friendships and more. As someone who studied in Japan, Toffolo explained, “You’re going to start seeing the world through the eyes of another country. What does our country look like from the outside? What do other countries worry about? You’re going to diversify and enhance the value of your degree.”

         Computer science major, Maham Hameed, did not attend the Zoom meeting but aspires to spend time in another country during her time at NEIU and said, “You will get to know other people and their native languages and also need to know how they learn in their country.” Luckily for students like Hameed, Toffolo said, “We have over 40 partner universities around the world.” From the university website, these International Partner Universities are in Latin America, Central Asia, East and South Asia and Europe.

         Toffolo mentioned this year, there will be a study trip to Ghana exploring culture and society organized by NEIU’s African and African American Studies program. In addition, the school’s psychology department will be visiting Japan, to observe the nation’s citizens’ reputation for having longer, healthier life spans.

         Toffolo added, “You can also study at our partner universities online.” In addition to diversified, virtual sessions, the OIP has a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program for NEIU faculty to teach a joint course with one of the partner universities’ faculty members. For example, Dr. Rao of NEIU’s College of Business is collaborating with Yarmouk University in Jordan while Toffolo used to collaborate with a school in Cairo, Egypt.

         Some criteria for students seeking nomination to apply for study abroad must have at least two semesters remaining at NEIU, a minimum 2.75 GPA, completed FAFSA and unexpired passport. Applicants will receive more tailored information and directions after paying an application fee. Financing for a semester abroad is a cause for concern with some students, so Toffolo explained, “There are some scholarships in the range of $2,000 to $5,000 through the Gilman Scholarship Program. Certain governments overseas do offer scholarships.” From Toffolo’s presentation, Japan offers a MEXT Scholarship and a school in Germany will be offering two scholarships.

         More options for financing a trip include financial aid already accessible through NEIU, personal savings, student loans, the Fulbright Scholarship and much more. Toffolo also noted, “They’re not vacations. You’re not going to go sit and lay on the beach in Spain, you’re going to be doing things related to a topic, to a course.”

         Depending on the destination school and available funding, cost of living and some airfare may be covered. Application deadlines vary from each institution overseas, but OIP faculty usually aim for students to submit applications by September to October for Spring semesters, January to March for Summer terms and March to April for the Fall term.

         Unfortunately, students have been unable to study overseas over the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the OIP is making efforts to garner interest. Though there were few participants at the Zoom session, assumingly resulting from financial concerns and COVID-19 stigma, Toffolo closed the session, saying, “Thank you for coming. I hope we can get all of you overseas, either to the summer program, next fall, next spring or even after that.”

The Zoom attendees were asked to submit a Google Form for personalized study-abroad planning with an OIP faculty member. The OIP will be hosting another Zoom session on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 from 3-4 pm, going more in-depth on opportunities for the Summer 2022 term. The Office of International Programs as part of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects can be located in Lech Walesa Hall’s basement, LWH 0043, and can be reached at [email protected].

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