Study Abroad Fair tells students to “Go Away”

The Office of International Programs held the first Study Abroad Fair of the year on Sept. 13 at the Connell Student Center from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The fair’s goal was to show the wide variety of study abroad programs available to Mercer students. It was an opportunity for students to meet the program directors and learn about the curriculums. With more than 20 different destinations, Mercer is “hitting every continent this year but Antarctica,” said Dr. Eric Spears, Director of International Education.
The Fair offered a variety of possibilities from which to choose. Students who are interested in studying abroad were able to gather information about various destinations, discuss opportunities and ask questions to students who have traveled through the specific program. Having a table from every program and destination, the Study Abroad Fair was considered a success among students and faculty. “The study abroad office thinks that it is absolutely essential for students to experience another cultures,” said Beth Walker, study abroad advisor. Mercer Abroad offers learning experiences throughout the world. Whether a semester in Oxford, summer in Jordan on Mercer on Mission, or spring break in Ecuador or Dubai, Mercer’s programs combine academic practice, intercultural experience, professional development, and leadership opportunities.
Dr. Eric Spears expressed that it would be educational malpractice not to offer these opportunities to the student population. “To me as a professor as an academic it would be educational malpractice to not give our students the opportunity to go and experience another culture, another society, while getting academic credit toward your degree,” said Spears.  According to the Office of International Programs, 30% of Mercer students travel abroad every year. Mercer Abroad offers long-term programs of one semester to an academic year and short-term programs from two to six weeks. This year, the fair presented at least five spring break options, 12 Mercer on Mission, and five faculty led programs during the summer of 2013.
Faculty-Led programs vary each year and are usually offered during the summer. Faculty work with a group of students to prepare travel and study abroad as a group. On the other hand, Mercer on Mission is a blend of study abroad and service-learning where a group of students with faculty spend two weeks in class on the Macon campus and three weeks in the field.  One of the novelties of the fair was the Spanish for the Health Professional Program, which is going to be offered for the first time next summer. The program includes the Spanish for Health Purposes II class, taught by faculty, and an internship volunteering at a local hospital. The spring break experience depends on the program and the director. The Office of International Programs advised students thinking about the spring break program, to start applying now through October and students thinking about next summer’s programs to start the application process around the end of November. Exchange programs offer the opportunity to be enrolled at a foreign university and to be completely immersed in another culture. The student is able to register for classes at Mercer, pay Mercer tuition and receive Mercer credit for courses taken at the exchange university. For both semester and academic year programs, students should start applying a year before to go through the process of enrolling and to make sure to take the right classes at the right university.
“The earlier you start planning, the better. I started planning in October through November and went in July,” said Senior Melissa Plyler, a French Major who went on a semester study abroad program to France and was representing the CIDEF program at the fair. She affirmed that going abroad was “one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It expanded my horizons, both social and cultural.” Mercer International Programs are encouraging students to experience the international abroad and it is going to host the second Study Abroad Fair on Oct. 25 for students to get more information. Dr. Spear’s last piece of advice for Mercerians was the International Programs Office slogan, “GO AWAY!”