graphic by louise dolby

The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of studying abroad is one of the best ways to gain valuable experience. Last year, more than 680 Cal Poly students participated in one of the many abroad programs offered at Cal Poly.

In the category of institutions offering up to a masters degree, Cal Poly was ranked No. 4 in the nation for the amount of students it sends abroad every year.

Students who study abroad have opportunities to learn first-hand about other cultures. Currently, Cal Poly offers over 20 different programs that students can choose from.

“There is a study abroad experience for every type of student,” said John Battenburg, director of international education.

Battenburg said there are specific benefits when students study abroad. For example, students in the London Study Program can take a course called Shakespeare in London and see different plays while also studying Shakespeare in class. Students can take Shakespeare courses at Cal Poly but they don’t offer the same experience, he said.

“They (students) are living the experience in ways very different than what we can do at Cal Poly,” Battenburg said.

Study abroad programs incorporate classes that fulfill general education requirements as well as fulfull certain major requirements. Study abroad programs offer anywhere from eight to 16 units.

Cal Poly offers several ways students can study abroad such as faculty-led programs, CSU international programs, exchange student programs and internships.

Battenburg said that there is a Web site that lists different study abroad opportunities as well as information meetings held every Wednesday.

Robyn Chevalier, a liberal studies junior, studied abroad and advises students who are thinking about studying abroad to plan ahead because it takes about a year to prepare before you leave.

While some students know exactly where they went to go, others may find it tough to decide.

Aric Stone, a senior in mechanical engineering, knew he wanted to go to Spain. He started planning the trip during his first year at Cal Poly. He took the trip in his third year.

Once the decision on the destination has been made, students must make sure his or her passport is up-to-date and will not expire during the trip.

Stone said learning another language was difficult in the beginning but he did so to be able to communicate with others.

Other items to keep in mind are health insurance, vaccinations and to plan finances for the actual trip. Battenburg recommends students to travel with less luggage and more funds.

As with the current riots in Paris, he said that students should be prepared for unexpected situations while abroad.

Keep an open mind regarding the customs of the country, Battenburg said. Don’t be naive about pickpocketing and keep street smart, he said.

James Keese, resident director for the Mexico program, said to know the culture because it can be fun one can learn a lot from that culture.

A common misconception is that studying abroad will postpone graduation and Battenburg said that if students plan accordingly, they can graduate on time.

Stone said that the fact he studied abroad and took the time to learn Spanish will benefit him when he goes to apply for jobs.

Expenses can be another cause of concern for many students. However, Battenburg said prices of the trips can vary and in some cases studying abroad can even be cheaper than being at Cal Poly.

The London Study Program and Japan are two of the most expensive trips because the cost of living is higher in those cities, he said.

Ashley Rumburg, an English senior, said that studying abroad is “worth every penny” and it’s the best thing a person can do.

For students worried about having to speak another language, they can rest assured because many of the programs that are offered are in English-speaking countries.

“I love that it (studying abroad) was different than anything I knew,” Stone said.

Seeing new people and learning their culture was the best part, he said.

Despite language barriers and apprehensions, former study-abroad students encourage enrolling in programs abroad.

“Do it,” Rumburg said regarding study abroad. “If you have any hesitations put them aside and do it.”

If students are interested in study abroad contact the International Education and Programs at 756-1477 or check out study abroad online at

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