College Connect: Study Abroad Dreams – making the cost worthwhile

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By Alex Sagi, University of Missouri


My dream took five years to come true and started while browsing the web to find my college home and career path.

I wanted to live at the center of the political and economic world, meet its leaders, tell its stories and breath in its culture.  As a high school junior enjoying American history and government classes, I was smitten by the University of Missouri’s opportunity to report from the parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

When making a decision about which study abroad trip to take, knowing which dream to follow is the most important part.

It only took one step out of the airport before I became immersed in my dream world full of jaw-dropping buildings, cars, languages, religions, histories and people.

My hopes of walking a path towards a prominent political journalism career took major steps forward as I wrote dozens of stories about major political events, reported from the European Parliament and shook hands with Europe’s leaders.

I also got to travel across Western Europe and see Belgium, France, Amsterdam, England and Spain.  I enjoyed the finest Belgian beers, waffles and frites and saw countless sights older than the US Constitution.  I became decent at French, enjoyed European transportation and work breaks and got a lot more knowledgeable about art, culture and history.  But the trip came with a high cost.

I spent an entire summer away from possible US internships, other vacations and family and friends – though I made many new ones in Europe.  I also spent more than $15,000 and had to take on a loan – that I will be fortunate enough to be able to pay back immediately after college graduation before interest starts building up.

Most of the costs went towards the luxurious housing provided by the study abroad program as well as the tuition for nine credit hours.  A large portion of cost went to travel expenses as well as the program fee.

A surprise to me, the Brussels Internship program actually lost money according to Missouri Journalism Study Abroad Director Fritz Cropp.  The highest paying programs for highly lucrative study abroad offices are two-week journeys that take students through tourist destinations and entertainment venues.  I have three friends who are in Germany, Australia and India right now on these trips, which cost about $6,000.

My dream was to be at the epicenter of political culture, and I learned a lot about Brussels, European life and European culture in the process.  My trip allowed me to learn much more in-depth from experience about another part of the world – the full immersion that I wanted.  It allowed a balance of structure and free time, putting me at my internship with New Europe four days a week and allowing travel on the weekends.  I took in all I could want about Brussels, but the trip was much more of a professional experience than a pure vacation.

Though I gained a cursory experience of many European cities and saw wonderful sites, the two-week trips would accomplish the same cursory experience without the high price in time or money.  The advantage the longer trips offer is the opportunity to become fully immersed in one culture, the main purpose of my trip.

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