The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW students have the opportunity to engage in various study abroad programs year-round

6 min read
Several framed photographs of traveling around the world. Above the photographs is the words "UMW Abroad" in big blue letters.

The University of Mary Washington not only offers faculty-led-trips abroad, but also exchange programs. Abbey Magnet / The Weekly Ringer


Staff Writer

UMW has many opportunities to study abroad that students can take advantage of during their time on campus. The Center for International Education, which is located on the fourth floor of Lee Hall, offers resources for students who want to study abroad. They offer a variety of programs, such as: faculty-led, exchange and approved programs.

“I’m going to study abroad at the University of Reading, which is in the U.K. I will be there for one semester, which is longer than a US semester going from January to June,” said Katie Kennedy, a sophomore creative writing major. 

Program Types

Faculty-led programs are study abroad trips led by a UMW professor where students can study at a variety of locations in Europe, Latin America and even Australia, according to the Education Abroad website. These trips take place during spring or winter break, as well as during the summer term. Some of the courses include ecology, marketing, Greek myth & classics and digital storytelling. 

Faculty-led trips over winter or spring break are associated with a course that students are required to sign up for as part of the program, such as the “Marketing Down Under” trip to Australia. For that program, students must take MKTG 370 during the fall semester before the trip.

For spring and winter break, most students will enroll in a course either in the spring or fall that is specifically designed for the trip they will take during the break. The most popular faculty-led programs that take place during these breaks are to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and to Australia. 

The first program Abbie Tomba, associate professor of biological sciences, led was to the Galapagos Islands in 2016 and again in 2018. 

“It’s such an amazing place for many reasons. One because of its remoteness, there is a very high rate of endemism, meaning many species you see there are only found on those islands,” said Tomba. “Two, because the animals there evolved without any large mammalian predators.” 

According to Sarah Moran, UMW’s study abroad coordinator who works at CIE, every time the study abroad program offers programs in the Galapagos Islands and Australia, they fill up very quickly. 

For the summer term, students will take courses in their chosen program that can be transferred back to UMW. Furthermore, in faculty-led programs over the summer, UMW professors offer classes at the university abroad in addition to courses taught by the faculty at the foreign institution. Students should discuss their course plans with their advisor, as well as a CIE faculty member prior to their departure.

The most popular summer term trips are in Spain and France. The program in Spain takes place in Bilbao, which is a city in the northern region of Basque Country. The programs in France take place in Aix-en-Provence, which offers both three-week and six-week programs, as well as an internship program. 

Exchange programs differ from faculty-led trips. Students enrolled in exchange programs spend either a semester, the summer term or an entire year at an international institution. UMW is partnered with 10 exchange programs, and each institution’s program is based on a different subject, so the classes taken are oriented towards the subject of focus. 

The most popular exchange program is the University of Reading in England. Other popular destinations are the University of Akita in Japan and University College Cork in Ireland. 

Approved programs are similar to exchanges, but instead of paying the tuition to UMW, the student pays the tuition, as well as the room and board costs to the host institution. With this type of program, students can still study in different countries for a summer term, semester or year, and the list for approved programs is more extensive than those for exchange or faculty-led programs. In fact, out of the 35 countries with approved programs, they often have one or more institutions to study at depending on the subject of interest. 

If students cannot find the program that fits their needs, a student can always petition to go to an institution or program that is offering them. The programs that UMW offers take into account the course offerings, especially as it pertains to how the credit will transfer back, as well as the financial impact of the trips.

“The reason why we have an approved list is because we’ve vetted those programs for academic content and financial safety,” said Moran.

Lastly, for all international travel a passport is required and can take weeks to be processed, so students should plan ahead and apply as soon as they think they want to study abroad.

Classes, living and cost

If interested in a particular program, students should contact the faculty member involved to see if they meet the requirements before applying. Once accepted, the student can register for the trip; however, registration will not be confirmed until a deposit fee is paid. After it is paid and a student is registered for the program, the final payment will be due on a certain date. 

Students should be sure to remember that registering for the trip is completely different from registering for the upcoming year’s classes, though they may also need to register for a class that is part of the trip for faculty-led programs. 

The type of program students take part in can be affected by their respective situations. 

According to Moran, approved programs are “better for our out-of-state students because you pay the total program fee to the university abroad.” Moran is a UMW alumni who graduated in 2010 and studied abroad with an exchange program in Ireland during the fall semester of her junior year. 

“In my case, I saved a bit of money going to Ireland, [as] I was an out-of-state student,” she said. 

When it comes to the cost of a faculty-led trip, it depends on where, for how long and when the study abroad program takes place. The cost of the trip is separate from the cost of tuition, though both are still paid to UMW. 

In exchange programs, a student will receive credit that can then be transferred back to UMW. Tuition for students who choose this type of program is still required and is paid directly to UMW, while all other expenses, such as housing and dining, are paid directly to the overseas institution. 

Students should also allot for extra costs—such as for souvenirs and additional travel—in planning for their trip. 

“I’ve never really traveled before, so I’m excited to see everything in Europe and I want to take advantage of it while I’m there,” said Kennedy. 

Students can also apply for study abroad scholarships, which are applications comprised of a set of written essays and a series of questions. These scholarships help students pay for the program of their choosing, and the faculty member who leads the program will send students an email about how to submit the application. 

“I know that programs like these are often the first time students travel abroad, which can be really exciting but may also be a little intimidating,” said Tomba. “Also, if you’d love to go but don’t think you can afford it, scholarships may be available.” 

Some scholarships are donated by individuals who have studied abroad with UMW in the past. For instance, UMW alumna Sally Brennan Hurt’s experience in the Galapagos Islands led her to establish the Sally Brannan Hurt ’92 Study Abroad Biology Scholarship to support those who take part in this particular program.

Moran said the most important thing that students need to remember is “to do the work ahead of time to figure out what is the ‘best fit’ program so you can get the most out of it.” Before students visit CIE, they should research the program of best fit in terms of cost, duration, requirements and accommodations, as well as the location.

Students should be aware of the differences in semester lengths, as well as the time it takes to have credits transferred from the institution abroad back to UMW. 

Some advice for students who are interested in a faculty-led program is to “definitely go to any information sessions being offered or go talk to the faculty directly,” said Tomba.