BYU students discuss study abroad scholarships — ‘The idea of a study abroad was like becoming a princess’

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A wall in the Kennedy Center has a map of international study opportunities in Europe. BYU hosts more than 40 international study programs around the world. (Kyle Remund)

BYU provides scholarship opportunities to students who want to participate in study abroad programs around the world.

The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies manages BYU’s study abroad program. On its website, students can find more than a dozen forms of financial aid, ranging from scholarships to grants to discounts.

According to data from the Urban Institute, independent college students make a median of $13,880 per year. That comes out to just over $1,100 per month, meaning that even the least expensive international study program is more than a month’s wages for at least half of independently living college students in America.

“I grew up most of my life below the poverty level and the idea of a study abroad was like becoming a princess,” BYU student Faith Hall said. Hall recently studied abroad in the Baltic States.

BYU offers four categories of these programs: international internship, study abroad, direct enrollment and field school. Each has its own emphasis. Ranging from just under $1,600 to just over $16K, international study programs are no small investment.

“It’s something I feel like people aren’t aware of,” said Sierra Mellor, who traveled to India on a study abroad this spring. “I was pretty lucky in that I got most of the cost covered.”

Some students seeking to travel abroad have been recipients of scholarships, grants, discounts and even federal programs.

“I was just blown away,” Hall said. “I don’t think my experience was the same as everyone else’s, but I was really blown away by how much help there was for me to go on this study abroad.”

On top of these, most departments within BYU have their own scholarships and grants for international study.

According to BYU student Sydni Merrill, even without financial aid, there are international study programs that cost less than traveling independently.

“If you compare the cost of actually living in London to going through BYU, it’s incredibly inexpensive,” Merrill said. “BYU makes experiential learning, study abroads and other international programs very affordable and accessible to students.”

Merrill studied in London earlier this year. She funded her trip through a Kennedy Center scholarship and her own savings.

“My time in London changed my life,” Merrill said.

Considering costs of living, study abroad programs can be a surprisingly good deal, according to Lynn Elliot, the director of International Study Programs at BYU.

“Some of the programs are cheaper than staying here at BYU campus,” Elliot said. “For most students on campus right now, there is never going to be a time where going abroad is cheaper or more convenient.”

International study programs vary in what the upfront cost covers, but always cover the cost of tuition and lodging. It is not uncommon for the cost to not include airfare or lunches, as is the case with BYU London Centre and the Church History Travel Study. Students are also responsible for obtaining a passport, getting necessary vaccinations and purchasing personal supplies for the trip.

“Every student could learn from a study abroad,” Elliot said. “That doesn’t mean every student should, because situations are different, but every student could learn from a study abroad.”

Hall said study abroad programs come rich with opportunities to learn about other cultures, religions and ways of life.

“They want us to be culturally adept,” Hall said, referring to the organizers of her study abroad program. “They want us to understand other religions.”

According to Elliot, students who participate in learning abroad also benefit from hands-on experiences that let them learn more deeply and get the chance to gain marketable skills.

“It gets you out of your bubble to learn things a new way,” Elliot said.

Students who are interested in study abroad programs can check with the Kennedy Center and their department for details on individual programs. The Kennedy Center also holds study abroad fairs each fall and winter semester. At the fair, students can learn more and talk with staff in charge of individual programs.

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