Students Frustrated With Study Abroad Office


Published: December 13, 2007

FCLC—In the last 10 years, there have been a record number of American students studying abroad, with numbers having risen 150 percent, according to the U.S. Department of State. At Fordham, the number of students has risen as well. While sending students abroad is a goal of the president, secretary of state and leaders in Congress, industry and academia, according to the Department of State, many Fordham students who have completed semesters abroad said they feel this goal is not shared by the university despite the rise in the number of student participation because the study abroad office does not offer sufficient help.

Students say they are frustrated with the lack of help the study abroad office offers with the application process for study abroad programs. (Ali Watts/The Observer)

“Fordham didn’t really do much of anything in terms of helping with the application process or the transferring of credits,” said Magda Kalata, FCLC ’08, who studied in Brussels. “It was basically up to me from beginning to end. All the study abroad office did is charge me $50 to send out the application,” she said.

Kalata said that before she left she had gotten all of her courses approved by her advisor but when she got back, her credits had transferred as electives instead of credit toward her major. “I had to basically redo the whole process and see my advisor again if I wanted them to count for my major. [This was] something the office of study abroad didn’t even tell me, instead I found out from a friend who also went abroad.”

Ashlee Gaupp, FCLC ’08, agreed. “Overall Fordham isn’t very helpful,” she said. “The reason I ended up in Amsterdam is because they didn’t send my application to South Africa on time. I had to pick something else without a language requirement within the same program, so my choice was a random one of convenience.”

According to Margaret Walter, the coordinator for International and Study Abroad Programs (ISAP) at Fordham, 188 students went abroad during the 2004-2005 academic year compared to the 232 in 2005-2006 and 298 in 2006-2007.

“The ISAP office assists prospective study abroad applicants by providing them with information about the study abroad application process and our approved programs,” Walter said. Students are encouraged to think based on academics when choosing a program. Certain programs and locations are best for certain majors, she said.

Michael Chaplin, FCLC ’09, who is currently planning his trip abroad for next semester said, “I feel like the study abroad office as a whole does not really know how to guide study abroad students. Every time I went over there with questions, they would send me home with five new study abroad booklets and my questions unanswered. Fordham has not contacted me at all since I was accepted into my study abroad program, except for, of course, when they needed more money.”

In terms of financing a study abroad program, institutional forms of financial aid are portable but it is capped based on time abroad and location. The aid ranges from $2,250 to $3,000 per semester for
university-sponsored programs. Non-institutional aid, such as federal and state aid, can be applied to the program as long as they meet the specific program and university requirements, as stated by the ISAP Web site.

“In order to have courses count towards their studies at Fordham, students must complete a Course Approval Form before they leave for study abroad,” Walter said. “On the form, courses are approved individually by their major/minor advisor or as electives. The departments are responsible for counting courses towards a student’s major/minor,” she said.

Victoria Kosara, FCLC ’08, who studied in London, said, “If you aren’t willing to make sure everything gets done, and double check it yourself, I don’t recommend going. The universities abroad are much more helpful [than Fordham] with administrative issues and paperwork. They made sure my transcript was sent, and my grades transferred easily.” She had a similar experience as Kalata in that she found out from a friend, rather than Fordham, that she would need to meet with her advisor again upon returning to Fordham to make sure that her courses were properly applied to her major.

Jessica Keefe, FCLC ’08, had a different experience. “Fordham was very helpful in transferring credits. Fordham lays out the requirements of the application for you in a pretty idiot-proof way. It does require some independent work but if you can’t handle that you probably shouldn’t be traveling to a foreign country anyway,” she said.