Within the last month, I’ve gone from being excited about studying abroad next year to feeling like the experience has become quite a chore. In my search for programs, I’ve become disappointed in the University’s resources for students potentially studying abroad. Sure, the University boasts that it has sent thousands of students abroad on University-sponsored programs, but how do Michigan’s programs compare to those of other universities?

In my experience, the University’s outreach and willingness to accommodate a range of study abroad interests is less than satisfactory. Though this topic is far less controversial than others I’ve covered, I’m sure I’ll receive a few scathing e-mails from former study abroad students, asking me how I could possibly speak against a program that I have yet to participate in. It’s a valid concern, but while the University’s programs may be numerous, they’re too narrow. Do you have plans to studying abroad in Dublin next semester? I hope you’re in kinesiology
or the medical school, or else your dreams of the Celtic Isle aren’t going to be fulfilled by the University.

I know you may think it’s a bit ridiculous to hold a grudge against the University for not allowing me to study in Ireland, but the problems don’t end there. When scrolling through University-sponsored programs, you may be confused as to why the range of places and programs are so fragmented. There are many programs that are only available one semester, and many only occur during spring and summer terms. Aside from fragmentation, the way for selecting study abroad programs appears to have been designed and implemented in 1995. The interface is hardly user-friendly, and you may spend a few hours trying to calculate the cost of your trip. Perhaps I’m analyzing this a bit too much — Michigan does offer more programs than many other state universities, but then again, we aren’t just another state university.

A majority of the University’s programs are offered through the Center for Global and Intercultural Study, and I attended one of the mandatory introductory sessions last month for students planning on studying abroad through CGIS. Aside from being terribly boring and hardly relevant, it is clear the University has capitalized on its large number of students who wish to study abroad. When I asked about a program that wasn’t offered, the speaker promptly told me that though they did not have program, many regions of the world are similar, and I may be able to experience the same way of life despite the distance of nearly 500 miles between the two cities. Perhaps I shall stand corrected, but I think the aforementioned statement was fairly ignorant for a person employed by the Center for Global and Intercultural studies.

After becoming disillusioned with the University’s programs, I researched other programs not sponsored by the University. There is an abundance of additional programs, some less than impressive and some that mimic the University’s format. Programs vary in their structure — some are sponsored by American institutions and are open to all eligible undergraduates. Clearly, there are many programs that may look less than impressive, but are heavily advertised. Look past these flashy programs and instead search for programs that are established and allow direct enrollment into a foreign university (which includes transcripts not from the program, but from the university.)

After many hours of research and consulting former participants of the program, I’ve found a study abroad solution. My chosen program is comparable to CGIS — but includes airfare — and will enroll me in the same university in Spain that the University program would. The difference between the two programs is the thousands of dollars that will remain in my pockets. If you attend a CGIS workshop, the speaker will most likely discourage non-University sponsored programs because “they don’t offer the support of the University.” But from what I’ve experienced, the University’s study abroad support is worth much less than the aforementioned dollar amount.

Eaghan Davis can be reached at daviseas@umich.edu.

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