Sample travel experiences, opportunities at the Study Abroad Fair

University alumna Bridget Doyle caught the travel bug early on in her college experience, leading her to study abroad multiple times in both her undergraduate and post-graduate years. Now as the outreach coordinator at the Study Abroad Office, Doyle helps current students explore the opportunities available to them through the Study Abroad Fair.

The event is held at the Illini Union Room C and South Lounge on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and allows students to learn about different programs and their costs. Representatives from universities abroad and returnees from University of Illinois study abroad programs will share their experiences and address all students’ inquiries.

Doyle will also be at the event as a resourceful veteran; she has participated in programs including Buenos Aires, Madrid and Barcelona. Doyle recalled planning for her own study abroad experiences and their affordability in preparing for the event.

“I wasn’t getting in over my head,” Doyle said. “The University offers about $850,000 in scholarships a year … (with) one in four students receiving a scholarship.”

To be the one in four, Doyle suggests starting early, browsing videos online that illustrate what the reviewing committee is looking for and visiting the Scholarships and Financial Aid tables at the fair.

More than 20 tables, each designating a different region and including faculty-led programs, will be present at the event.

Amanda Toledo, previous U.K. study abroad participant and senior in LAS, suggested using the fair as a survey of the different programs and destinations available, but also recommended coming in with two set programs in mind.

Also at the booths, one of 10 peer advisers from the Study Abroad Office will address questions regarding programs in different countries. All advisers have studied abroad at least once and can provide personal advice on traveling to different regions.

Kenzie Pittman, peer adviser and senior in LAS, will be at the Verona table. Pittman, who studied abroad during Fall 2012, said living in foreign country was a step out of her comfort zone.

“Every day, I spoke a language I didn’t know and talked to people I didn’t know,” Pittman said. “(But) everywhere (in Verona) is beautiful. It’s a great learning experience.”

After attending the fair, Doyle encourages students to visit peer advisers in Room 112 of the International Studies Building. Students may stop in anytime with questions or concerns about studying abroad, such as booking flights and traveling alone.

Doyle, who stayed in Buenos Aires for half a year after a semester of studying abroad, said traveling to a foreign country may turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

“I met some of the best people while traveling on my own,” Doyle said. “Talking to people that are not like you will better help you digest the experience.”

For students already interested in specific programs, the Study Abroad Office will host First Steps Info Sessions to help guide the application and planning process. Sessions will begin Sept. 3 and run through Nov. 12 from Mondays to Wednesdays, 4 to 4:45 p.m. in Room 101 of the International Studies Building.

Lyanne can be reached at [email protected]