$20,000 grant supports study abroad for diverse Abington students

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ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington received a $20,000 grant from the Penn State Bookstore, which is operated by Barnes & Noble, to help provide students who are generally underrepresented in study abroad with access to these transformative international experiences.

Increased funding for semester-long study abroad and short-term, faculty-led international programs will open doors of opportunity for high potential students, many of whom have never traveled beyond the Philadelphia region. In partnership with Barnes & Noble, Abington is advancing its vision for “Abington in the World/The World in Abington.”

The grant funding will allow up to 50 Abington students to enroll in either semester-long programs of study abroad offered through Penn State or embedded courses led by Abington faculty members that incorporate a short-term international travel component during semester breaks.

Dolores Rafter-Arevalo, director of Global Programs and International Student and Scholar Services at Abington, said she applied for the grant to give Abington students who otherwise might not have the chance to engage in this experience the opportunity to study abroad.

“Abington is the most diverse campus of Penn State, so it follows that the grants are designed for students who don’t generally have the opportunity to study abroad. For example, first-generation college students, first-generation Americans, and students of color, all of whom are underrepresented in study abroad,” she said.

As international experiences become increasingly significant in today’s job market, financial support for global learning opportunities is key to ensure that these high-impact programs are accessible to low-income, first-generation students. For many students, cost is the primary deterrent to studying abroad, particularly when one considers the additional expenses incurred beyond tuition such as passports, student visas, and roundtrip airfare.

Rafter-Arevalo reiterated the many benefits of study abroad including:

  • Increased retention and graduation rates.
  • Improved personal and academic development.
  • Development of intercultural competency.
  • Increased likelihood to attend graduate school and pursue a globally focused career.

"This grant is all about supporting the students who think studying abroad is not a possibility for them during their college career."

— Dolores Rafter-Arevalo, director, Global Programs

Abington student Jonaire Tate received $2,000 from the grant for a Penn State program in China with an accelerated language immersion program in Shanghai. The life science major has been studying Mandarin for about six years.

“I hope to experience what it’s like to live in China without feeling like a tourist. I want to gain an appreciation for a language and culture that is not my own,” said Tate, who will study abroad in summer 2019 . “I hope to make connections with new people.”

Tate plans to use her increased proficiency in Mandarin when she becomes a pediatrician.

“What I learn will enable me to treat patients from various backgrounds who do not speak fluent English,” she said. “I may also live in China for a period of my life to practice medicine there.”

Many students do not apply for study abroad because they are unaware of the many resources available to help defray the costs.

“I really didn’t know what was available until I contacted the Abington Office of Global Programs. They sent me an email full of scholarship applications,” Tate said. “Students should do their homework and look into funding and scholarships.”

Arevalo said there are a lot of myths surrounding study abroad.

“Students often say I just don’t have the money or the time to go abroad. Our students often work and attend school and support their families, too,” she said. “This grant is all about supporting the students who think studying abroad is not a possibility for them during their college career. What I would like them to understand is that study abroad, interning abroad, global engagement activities are actually an investment in themselves and an investment in their futures.”

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible, and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.