While study abroad has long been considered an option only for students at four-year colleges and universities, there are actually many options for community college students who would like to experience studying in another country.
For many students attending four-year colleges or universities, a semester abroad is a typical experience and one that offers a host of benefits. Students who study abroad have the opportunity to live and study within a new culture, and often have the chance to hone valuable language skills.
However, for community college students, many of whom have important responsibilities outside of the classroom, spending months away from home and work is impractical at best, and more than likely impossible.
In recent years several community colleges have identified the benefits of studying abroad, and have acknowledged the unique challenges their students face in doing so. As a result, many community colleges now offer short-term study-abroad programs, as well as traditional semester programs. In the last decades, the number of community college students who take the opportunity to study abroad has expanded tremendously, from just fewer than 4,000 students back in 2001, to almost 300,000 in 2015.
Community colleges offer programs to fit the schedules and unique learning needs of almost any student:
- Short-term educational programs
- Traditional semester-long programs
- Short and long term volunteer or service learning programs
Community college students can work with study abroad program providers, who will coordinate with a student’s college to assess the credit available for different short and long term programs. They can also enroll directly with foreign universities and transfer credits when they return. Finally, students can work with their own community colleges’ programs.
Short Term Study Abroad
Several providers offer short-term study abroad programs that are ideal for busy community college students.
- CIEE Study Abroad: Offers month-long programs all over the world, primarily during summer and January breaks. Program costs range from about $3000 to $6000, and include tuition and housing for the duration of the program. The cost typically does not include airfare or student incidental living expenses. CIEE summer programs lead between 3 and 6 credit hours that can be applied at the students. Applicants must have a GPA of at least 2.75 to be considered. CIEE also helps students secure scholarship and grant funding for educational travel. Some of the more popular CIEE short term programs include:
- London, England – business and communication studies
- Buenos Aires, Argentina – gender and ethnic studies
- Nanjing, China – Chinese studies
- Prague, Czech Republic – psychology
- Paris, France – language and culture
- Groningen, Netherlands – urban planning and society
- Seville, Spain – new media and journalism
- IES Abroad January Term: The intensive January-term programs offer students and immersive experience in a chosen discipline, with the added bonus of exploring an unfamiliar culture. The IES January term programs are competitive and an application is required. Students must have a GPA of at least 2.5, the approval of home-campus study-abroad programs, a recommendation from a current professor, and must submit a personal essay. Program costs range from $3000 to $6000, and scholarships are available. Each program results in 3 credits. The current January programs include:
- Dublin, Ireland – acting
- Freiburg, German – comparative law
- Rome, Italy – studies in Christianity
- Santiago, Chile – health studies
- Go Overseas: Offers short-term study abroad programs intended to provide a valuable, intensive international study program for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to study and travel internationally. The programs are as short as two weeks, and result in credit that can be applied to a student’s home college program. Programs are typically less than $1000 for tuition for two weeks, and result in three credits. Students are responsible for transportation and housing costs, although low-cost home-stays can be arranged. Some of the more popular two-week programs, as assessed by past-student ratings, are:
- Beijing, China – Intensive two-week tutoring in Mandarin.
- Salzburg, Austria – anthropology, history, music, sociology, or German
- La Antigua, Guatemala – Spanish immersion
- Tokyo, Japan – Japanese immersion
- Limerick, Ireland – Irish studies, business, engineering, or health care
Semester Abroad Programs
Many students who may have, in years past, taken a traditional educational route by attending a four-year college or university, are now taking advantage of the remarkable savings provided by community colleges, where they can complete half of their degree program for much less than a traditional college might cost. These more traditional students have the time and inclination to pursue semester-long study abroad programs, and many community college systems offer a host of options.
- California Community College System : With 113 campuses that serve over two million enrolled students, the California Community College system provides one of the most robust travel abroad programs in the United States. Through the California Colleges for International Education Consortium, the state develops learning opportunities for students at all public two and four-year colleges and universities in the state. Eligibility requirements vary by institution; however, the community college program adheres to an “open door” policy, which means any students who fulfill prerequisites may apply and complete study abroad semesters. Different institutions offer different programs each semester. Some highlights of the upcoming semesters include:
- London, England – Santa Rosa Junior College; 16 different courses offered
- Salamanca, Spain – West Los Angeles College; Spanish language and civilization
- Madrid, Spain – Pasadena City College; Spanish language, business, and history
- London, England – Fullerton College; British literature, Western history, US history
- Community Colleges in New York – There are over 35 community college campuses in New York, most of which offer semester-long study abroad programs. As in California, programs vary by campus, but are open to all enrolled students who have completed the prerequisites for the specific courses they seek to take abroad. Some programs reqire letters of reference, statements of purpose and a minimum GPA. Financial aid, scholarships, and grants can be applied to semester-abroad study. Some highlighted offerings in the coming semesters include:
- India – Borough of Manhattan Community College; social entrepreneurship
- Ethiopia – Nassau Community College; anthropology
- Turkey – Jamestown Community College; architecture
- Dominican Republic – Broome Community College; language and culture
- Community Colleges in Texas – Almost all of the fifty community colleges in Texas offer study abroad options, and many offer semester-long programs. The community college system serves 1.5 million students from all walks of life, and the varied offerings reflect the interests of the student body at each individual campus. As in other states, study abroad can be funded with financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Some programs require prerequisites or more competitive application processes, including interviews, letters of recommendation, and statements of purpose. Some program highlights include:
- Canada – Austin Community College; culinary arts
- France - Austin Community College, pastry arts, government
- Japan – Alamo Community College; language and culture
- Jordan – McLennan Community College, Arabic and middle east studies
Volunteer and Service Learning Programs
Some community college students seek an opportunity to study abroad and simultaneously make a difference in their host countries. For these students, service learning and volunteer programs are an ideal way to combine travel and serving the global community. Many community colleges organize service learning and volunteer programs for off-sessions, such as January intersession or over the summer. Several organizations also work closely with community colleges to develop programs that provide students with safe, educational, and meaningful international learning experiences. Some of these organizations and their representative programs include:
- ISA Service Learning: This organization develops unique, and ever changing opportunities for students to serve international communities, learn about different cultures, and earn college credit. They offer short-term and semester-long programs to meet the needs of all types of students. As students work in local communities, they also take classes at nearby universities, combining experiences and becoming completely immersed in local culture. Some of the unique ISA programs include:
- India – Malavli or Mumbai; providing service in education and healthcare,
- Morocco – Meknes; business and marketing, education, healthcare, political science, social work.
- South Africa – Cape Town; communications and journalism, computer science, political science, social work
- Global Crossroad: This international organization arranges volunteer opportunities combined with college credit awarded by a U.S. accredited institution. The organization offers a long list of colleges that accept transfer credits for volunteer experiences, making it a worthwhile opportunity to help others and further one’s education. Global Crossroad offers programs as short as two-weeks, or that extend for an entire semester, in countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Costs are very reasonable, and most students are housed with host families, ensuring complete immersion into the local culture and community. Some experiences include:
- Cambodia – volunteer opportunities in orphanages, with community development projects, in health care, and as teachers of English.
- Uganda – volunteer opportunities in healthcare, working in an orphanage, or teaching English
- Brazil – volunteer opportunities in child care, teaching, youth athletics, or computer education.
Given the range of programs and availability for students who choose to study abroad, no community college student should feel excluded from this aspect of higher education. Obviously, it is important to investigate each program carefully to ensure it is a good match for one’s learning path and interests. Most community college campuses employ a study-abroad coordinator who can help students review programs and identify the best times to pursue international opportunities. Thousands of students study abroad every year, and almost all of them report positively on an experience that can open doors to new career and educational pursuits.