College is the best time to travel, says Study Abroad director

Article by: Angela Bray

“I’d love for Study Abroad to be put out there for more students to see,” said Youmna Hinnawi, Director of the program. Originally from Turkey, Hinnawi has traveled to Taiwan, Madrid, France, and England; she has been in America for over 30 years.

Suffolk has its own campuses in Madrid, Spain and Dakar, Senegal, and there are over 50 additional programs internationally. Any student may take advantage of this opportunity. Freshman are allowed study at the Madrid and Dakar campuses, while sophomores and juniors are able to study at any of Suffolk University’s approved locations. Unless they receive written permission from their college dean, seniors may only study at Suffolk’s Madrid or Dakar campuses. According to Hinnawi, the most popular destinations are Suffolk’s Madrid campus, Italy, Australia, and England. “Greece is getting there, and those getting popular are Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea,” she said.

Why should a student go abroad? “I think, number one, it is the best time to visit another country and learn another culture, all while earning credits,” said Hinnawi. “In the future, if you’re a tourist, the experience won’t be the same. Being a student, it opens up lots of opportunities that aren’t there as an adult; schools have connections that let students do things tourists cannot do.”

Andrew Foy, a Suffolk freshman, is currently at the Madrid campus. “I’ve gotten everything I could have ever wanted from college in one semester of studying abroad,” he said. “The faculty here is irreplaceable, the experience is indescribable, and I finally made the friends I hoped for when coming to Suffolk University.” Foy is a Marketing and Public Relations double major.

Several housing options are available to students who decide to study abroad. Choices include living in a student residence, dorm, apartment, or with a host family. “Before leaving home, a definite arrangement is made as to where the student will be staying. More and more, they offer host families,” said Hinnawi. In addition to studying in spans of semesters, summer sessions, and winter sessions, there are shorter time periods. Faculty from the Sawyer Business School and the College of Arts and Sciences offer courses overseas from time to time.

Not only do Suffolk students travel internationally, but international students come here to study at Suffolk. Next fall, students will arrive at the Boston campus from places including Norway, Denmark, Taiwan, Japan, England, and Austria. “This is wonderful. It encourages our students to go to other places,” said Hinnawi.

The study abroad experience reaches far beyond schoolwork. Students seek involvement in community work and student groups. An internship abroad is also a possibility, only the student would take less courses. Instead of four to five courses, two to three would be taken along with an internship. “One girl worked in Scotland in the tourism field,” said Hinnawi. “It was good for them to have her as an intern because she could give an idea of what American tourists want to see and do.”

Suffolk junior Meghan Van Vuren spent her Fall 2009 semester at Regent’s American College in London. She housed on Edgware Road in an off-campus flat with five other girls, three of them also from Suffolk. “Studying abroad is what you make of it,” she said. “If you’re open to meeting new people, adapting to new ways of life, and coming back with a new perspective, you will flourish from the experience. I can’t imagine any one segment of my life having more impact on who I am than living in London for four months.”

“It is great when students have the chance for additional traveling while abroad,” said Hinnawi. “Being able to travel inexpensively was definitely one of the biggest perks of studying abroad,” said Van Vuren. “When I went over there I was on a really limited budget, but we were still able to take two weekend trips to Italy; we went to Bologna, Florence, and Pisa, and then another weekend trip to Dublin. Over fall break, my flat-mate and I basically bought a 15-day European bus pass that allowed us unlimited travel during the time period to anywhere in Europe.” With that pass, they began in London; from there they visited Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam.

“I love when students come by the office after learning about the Study Abroad program at orientation and activities fairs,” said Hinnawi. “Some think it’s impossible for them to go abroad, but it is possible.” Financial aid transfers, and scholarship applications are offered through affiliates.

“A Study Abroad student is very courageous and self-challenging, especially since he or she leaves a specific comfort zone,” said Hinnawi. “The student is affected with a great deal of self-assurance.”