Study abroad opens new worlds to students

Nate Neff
Nate Neff '13 on Semester at Sea

 

                When Caitlin Castina ’13 heard that the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in GlobalLeadership could provide full scholarships for summer study abroad, she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

                The scholarship program provides a generous scholarship each year for three female full-time studentsfrom Pitt-Bradford to study abroad in the summer. Recipients must have never traveled abroad before.  They are required to plan and implement a community engagement activity and attend leadership workshops.

                The program is the dream of its namesake whose own world was transformed by international travel following the death of her husband.

                Unlike most students, the entrepreneurship major had more to consider than just herself. A nontraditional student in her late 20s, she was already married and had daughters who would be 5 and 2 years old during the summer that she would travel. But still, here was this tremendous opportunity.

                Castina had always wanted to travel. She even joined the U.S. Air Force with hopes of seeing the world, but never made it past Texas. She might never get this chance again, so with her husband’s help at home in Mount Jewett, Pa., she studied for six weeks last summer in Denmark, where she took classes in Health Delivery and Prioritization and the Holocaust and Genocide.

                Even though she is a nontraditional student who’s been managing on her own for a decade, Castina said her experience gave her greater confidence.

                “You learn a lot about yourself,” Castina said. “Just the fact that I decided to go boosted my confidence.”

                “Doing anything in another country feels like an accomplishment,” she said.  “Yeah, we made it to the café!”

                That’s part of why study abroad is more popular than ever with Pitt-Bradford students, with three times as many students now studying abroad each year – that was 27 during 2012-2013.

                Study abroad is one of the places where Pitt-Bradford’s connection with the larger University of Pittsburgh is a huge asset, said Kristin Asinger, visiting instructor of sports medicine at Pitt-Bradford and director of internationalstudies. Asinger actively promotes study abroad and helps students find the best programs and affordable ways to make it happen.

                Pitt’s Panther Programs happen all over the world and require Pitt tuition plus the cost of travel, room and board.  “Currently, Pitt in London is the most popular of those programs with Pitt students,” Asinger said. “Some countries are actually cheaper to live in than onthe home campus, such as Ghana.”

                Asinger helps remove stumbling blocks for students hoping to study abroad. She said there are still a lot of misperceptions about study abroad. Some students think that it is only for students in the humanities, but she can work with students to find programs in business, engineering, education and more.

Another myth is that it’s just for “rich kids.” Asinger works with students to find affordable programs, and last year Pitt-Bradford students received $61,600 in scholarships toward study abroad, which included national, private and study abroad program provider scholarships.

“Those scholarships have truly allowed many of our students to make their dream come true when it never would have happened without the help,” Asinger said.

                Asinger said that approximately 61 percent of students who study abroad from Pitt-Bradford receive some sort of scholarship or financial aid.

                This is where Pitt-Bradford’s “50 and Beyond Campaign: The Campaign for the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford” comes in, having set a $500,000 goal for a study abroad scholarship endowment.

                Asinger would like to see more students go abroad and for students to be able to receive an award of $500 to $1,000 to help with expenses.  “By receiving some financial assistance, students are more likely to choose study abroad, with a little help, they say ‘I can do this,’” she said.

                The benefits, she thinks, are worth the investment. “Students come back with a new-found confidence in themselves and connections all over the world,” she said, adding that they’ve learned to adapt, communicate and appreciate differences in cultures.

                Those are attributes employers are seeking, according to a poll earlier this year by The Chronicle of Higher Education and NPR’s Marketplace, which cited a need for workers with adaptability, communications skills and complex problem-solving skills.

                But study abroad is about more than eventual employability, although it may help with that. It’s an investment in a person in all their professional and personal roles.

                Castina brought back from Denmark a renewed sense of the importance of family time, which she saw stressed by Danish families.

                “They always make time for that over there,” she said, so she has been sure to cook dinner, turn off the television and focus on her family, which means that the Vira I. Heinz scholarship is now benefitting her family also.

                For more information on the “50 and Beyond Campaign” or creating or contributing to existing study abroad scholarships, contact Jill Ballard, executive director of institutional advancement at (814)362-5091 or jballard@pitt.edu.

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