Many Schreyer students take advantage of opportunities to study abroad or undertake service projects internationally. Our daughter is no different than these global citizens. During her freshman year, Stephanie became involved with the Malini Club, a Schreyer organization that supported the Malini Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to empower girls in Sri Lanka. One key service that the foundation provides is English instruction so that Sri Lankan girls can obtain higher levels of education in order to compete in the work place.
One day Stephanie announced that she wanted to go to Sri Lanka during the summer to work with young girls to teach them English. We, as parents, had to consider the implications of such a trip. We knew that an experience like what Stephanie described would be beneficial to her. It would be fantastic to work with girls in need and to experience a culture so different from her own. However, we were concerned about her safety and well- being, as well as the cost. Knowing that Sri Lanka had experienced civil war a number of years ago, we were concerned about the stability of the government. We were also concerned about how we could help her if a need arose and she was literally half way around the world. After some thought and research, we agreed to the trip. It was all that Stephanie had hoped that it would be.
Stephanie is a history major working toward an enhanced minor in middle eastern studies and a minor in political science. Her goal is to volunteer or study in an Arabic speaking nation. We, as parents, have not yet come to a comfort level to let Stephanie go to Morocco or a similar country to hone her language skills and cultural knowledge. We believe that a young woman from suburban Pittsburgh attending college at fairly rural Penn State needs more experience in the world before heading to the Middle East.
As a compromise, Stephanie applied and was accepted to a semester of study at St. Catherine’s College at the University of Oxford in England. She is currently there studying Middle Eastern politics and European history. Through this opportunity, Stephanie will also live in London for several weeks and travel to various parts of Europe. Not only will she enhance her knowledge of the Middle East through her studies, but she will also benefit from her international urban experiences.
Upon her return to the United States, we will have to evaluate her opportunities to travel to the Middle East. While we would prefer that she go with a Penn State faculty program, we will review available options in addition to the political issues at that time. While we believe that international experience is an important component of any education, we as parents must evaluate and consider each opportunity with respect to safety, cost and benefit.
With respect to the cost component, travel funds and research grants may be available to Schreyer Scholars intending to go abroad. Each term, Schreyer provides a window of time during which students may apply for funds to help with such costs based on destination and duration of the program. Further, academic colleges, such as the College of Liberal Arts, also offer financial assistance for travel costs and expenses. If your child is considering time abroad, be sure to have him or her research these opportunities and be sure to meet all application deadlines in addition to reviewing other considerations for the trip.