What to Know Before You Go: Tips for PC Students Who Want to Go Abroad
by Sienna Strickland ’22
It’s official: abroad season is upon us. Providence College has given applicants the green light. Students are saving up their money and they are applying to their programs. They are consulting with advisors and other adults in their lives, asking for helpful advice and recommendation letters. They are also, and perhaps rightfully so, panicking.
Getting approval from the College is only the beginning; there is still much left to be done for those planning to go abroad next year, and deadlines are slowly but surely inching closer and closer. People are asking: “How can I afford this?” “Will my credits transfer?” “How will I live?” “Will I be safe?” amongst many other inquiries. Who can they turn to for help?
Dean Joe Stanley and Assistant Dean Grace Cleary are a place to start for students in search of these answers. Working for the College’s Center for Global Education, they get students coming in and asking these questions every day.
“A common concern students have regarding going abroad is paying for it,” Stanley says. “Students have the option to try applying for aid from our Santander Bank. It is our corporate partner on campus, who allocates funds to help students abroad cover their costs.”
Cleary adds her own advice, and it is positive news for students who receive financial aid packages: “When going abroad, you are charged PC tuition, meaning that your PC financial aid package is also carried over. For example, if you receive a Pell Grant here, you will receive it abroad, and some providers, like SIT [the School for International Training] will give you extra funding on top of that.”
What if you wanted to switch studies? Cleary generally discourages students from doing so this late in the process, saying: “At this point, we generally advise against students switching their chosen abroad program, unless there is an appropriate reason, such as them declaring a new major or dropping an old one. One reason for this is that the visa application process can be lengthy, and we want students to have ample time to complete it.”
Andrew Balmer ‘20, talks about his application process, and how getting a visa was the most difficult part for him. “The application process through the school was actually pretty straightforward. My grades were good and I had no disciplinary issues. The difficulty for me was then applying for a student visa for Austria. I had to have multiple copies of a lot of different forms, along with bank statements from my parents since they would be the ones supporting me while I was in Austria, and my passport and birth certificate. I had to take all of these documents to the Austrian consulate in New York. I turned over everything I had and then crossed my fingers. Two weeks later my passport came in the mail with the visa document glued onto one of the pages.”
Dean Stanley gives another reason against switching late in the process, saying, “If students are seeking to re-apply to one of our flagship programs, we cannot guarantee them room. There is a cap limit for each of them.”
The different flagship programs are Civ in London, PC in Rome, PC in Shanghai, EDU in Belfast, and EDU in Florence. PC in Shanghai has been delayed for the semester, due to China being labeled as a level four on the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory’s scale because of the recent coronavirus outbreak.
Another common concern was the safety of the visiting countries. “Every country on our list has been vetted and deemed safe, with consultation from our legal council and committees, as well as informed by rankings done by the travel advisory,” Stanley says.
“We continue to address these issues during our pre-departure orientation event,” Cleary says. This event is held shortly before abroad students leave to prepare them for their upcoming semesters. “There we cover everything students need to know immediately before leaving,” she explains.
In addition to wanting a wider outreach, Stanley says that the College would like PC students to engage in more diverse travel locations as well. “For the PC in Shanghai program, we were offering free housing to give people the extra incentive to go,” says Stanley. Only a handful of people signed up.
This is because, for the most part, PC students enroll in more well-known locations. “85 percent of people travel to Europe,” Stanley remarks. ”And then those people come back and tell the underclassmen all about how amazing those places were, and we see a repeating pattern of who goes where. It helps create this kind of stigma in favor of some countries over others,” Cleary adds.
The deans hope to increase membership in these less sought after programs by first increasing student awareness of their existence. However, other limitations including rigorous course schedules, incompatible program requirements, and extraneous costs for flights, housing, food, and other living expenses, must also be accounted for.
“We still recognize the limitations that keep people from going despite our efforts, whether it be they are unable to fit going abroad into their rigorous schedules, they cannot find a program that fits their studies, or they can’t afford it. We are always there to help a student find the right program for them, and assist in any way we can, especially in pointing them in the right direction for extra scholarship opportunities,” Stanley says.
The Center for Global Education’s walk-in hours are every Tuesday and Wednesday from 1-4 p.m. in Harkins 215. If you are unable to make these times, call 401.865.2114 to schedule an appointment.