Mythbusters: Going abroad edition

Five of the biggest study abroad myths, according to UB’s Study Abroad program


Alize Scott could be the first member of her family to travel outside the U.S. Her lack of travel experience has held her back from studying abroad – until now.

Scott, a junior communication major, hopes to study abroad somewhere in Africa, despite her anxiety of the unknown.

Scott’s feelings toward going abroad are not uncommon, said Mary Odrzywolski, director of UB’s Study Abroad program. Ten percent of UB students study abroad currently, a number she’d like to see doubled. Odrzywolski thinks some students hold back from studying abroad because of fear or misconceptions – something she hopes to change. Here are five of the biggest study abroad myths, de-bunked.

1. Its too expensive

Students concerned about cost can look into exchange programs, where they pay UB tuition rates at an overseas institution, Odrzywolski explained.

Other program types can be more expensive. In Direct Enroll Programs, students pay the tuition of the host university. Faculty-Led Programs and International Internship Programs have additional fees above UB tuition as well.

UB offers five general study abroad scholarships – six with specific stipulations and nine departmental scholarships.

Most federal financial aid, other than work-study, can be applied toward paying for SUNY sponsored Study Abroad Programs, Odrzywolski said. Students should still meet with their Financial Advisor to discuss potential impacts on their eligibility to go abroad.

The application deadline for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s SUNY Diversity Abroad Honors Scholarship toward a 2018 winter or spring program is Sept. 28.

2. I wont be able to communicate overseas

Another myth Odrzywolski wants to tackle is the idea that an inability to speak the native language of the country is preventative to studying abroad in that country.

“I thought, ‘It might be cool to go to China, but I don’t speak Mandarin Chinese. I can’t go there,’”Odrzywolski said. “But it’s not true, it’s really not true.”

Many foreign universities instruct in English, Odrzywolski said, citing an electrical engineering program for juniors hosted in France by ENSEA, a French graduate school.

3. My program doesnt allow me to study abroad

Odrzywolski said any study abroad program can be applied to most students’coursework, especially with the addition of a study abroad portion to the new UB curriculum.

The new UB curriculum was implemented for any student whose first semester at UB was fall 2016 or later, and it includes a “Global Pathway” criteria that encourages studying abroad.

Odrzywolski also said there are several research-based study abroad programs for a variety of majors and she is always fascinated with the students whose passion for research takes them overseas.

She also mentioned an academically specific study abroad program called Buffalo Outreach Community Assistance (BOCA), which gives UB dental students the opportunity to provide free dental care in places that lack access to dental services.

“As of 2011, students and supervising faculty members in BOCA have examined more than 12,000 patients, performing nearly 8,000 dental restorations and 11,000 extractions—work valued at $3.2 million,” according to the UB website.

4. My parents wont let me

Odrzywolski said students have to take initiative to convince wary parents that studying abroad is a worthwhile experience.

“When it comes to parents, some of the responsibility has to be on the student to sell the opportunity to their parents,” she said.

The study abroad office is interested in helping students find their ideal program, but they are not in the business of playing matchmaker by pigeonholing a type of student to a location.

“Regardless of what type of student you are here at your home institution, you’re going to change,” Odrzywolski said. “Whether you want to see something new or whatever your motivations are, you’re going to come back a different person. With a different appreciation of the world.”

Brandon Lu Shing, a freshman exercise science major, said he believes his parents would be supportive of his decision to go study abroad.

“I think my parents want to encourage me to study abroad as much as possible, check out the other countries in the world, not be so close-minded in New York City or New York State,” Lu Shang said.

5. Study abroad wont help me further my career goals

Odrzywolski said she is a firm believer that employers value a study abroad experience on a student’s resume.

“Employers are more interested in hiring students who have studied abroad based on a variety of skills, and some of them are soft skills,”Odrzywolski said. “You learned how to navigate an airport on your own, you learned how to navigate a conversation that had interesting social cues, things like that, where you might be able to use [the skills] to work with different populations for the company.”

A study conducted by Frontier Journals supported Odrzywolski’s claims.

Eight in ten HR executives say that study abroad experience is an important factor for overseas job placement within their companies, while 73 percent of employers say they cited studying abroad as important when evaluating resumes of a candidate for a junior level position.

Application deadlines for winter and spring 2018 programs vary, but many begin in late October, early November. Odryzwolski encourages students to stop by the Study Abroad office in 201 Talbert Hall to find out more about which program is right for them.

Haruka Kosugi is a staff writer and can be reached at