Broadening Horizons hosts student panel, seeks potential globetrotters

A panel of five students who recently returned from study abroad programs spoke of their stories, hardships, suggestions, and the process of leaving the States at a seminar held in the Urban Life Building last Wednesday. The program is an effort to encourage more students to study abroad, with a particular focus on minority students.

The panel’s constituents, whose departure dates varied from the summer of 2011 to this past summer, elaborated on their experiences with the program at Georgia State. China, Liberia, Argentina and Australia were just a few of the countries students traveled to this past year. They discussed trip experiences and how to raise money for the trip through fund raising and scholarships.

Javahnda Kea, senior and Marketing and International Business major, traveled to South Korea, after initially feeling hesitant and unsure of how she would come up with the money.

“I got mixed reactions from friends and family when I told them I wanted to go to South Korea. My family wanted me to go where I wanted, but they kept telling me to be safe,” Kea said. “I was telling people who asked me ‘Who are you going with?’ that ‘I don’t know’ because I didn’t get the money for the trip until a few weeks before we left.”

Kea applied for and received the Global Experience Scholarship shortly before her trip, covering all her costs and expenses. She also received money from GlobalLinks, an organization which helps send students abroad. She urged students that want to study abroad and see the world: “You can do it, don’t even think about the ‘I can’ts’. Come with a positive mindset.”

Kea also expressed her qualms about studying in Asia as a student of color.

“I was very concerned at first, if there would be anyone like me or that could relate to me,” Kea said.

She said she was pleasantly surprised to meet a few other African Americans in Korea and upon her return to the States was indifferent to being around others like her.

“I think by being in an entirely different culture, it made me really look at the big picture,” Kea explained. “By not being around others exactly like me I learned to appreciate other people and foreign cultures much more and more easily. I would love for more students to study abroad, especially students of color.”

Grace Lee, senior and Public Policy major was glad she went to study in China this past summer.

“I met friends for life and got to experience a different culture. It was a great experience,” Lee said. “I’ve heard several of my bosses at jobs I’ve worked tell me their biggest regret was not studying abroad. I’m happy to have taken the opportunity.”

Lee said she was surprised by the general kindness she received overseas in China, due to the different form of government in the country. She recalled that on the last day of her trip in Hong Kong she was pick-pocketed while her group was out on the streets and lost her wallet and passport.

“I don’t recommend sling bags or anything that could hang open or in plain view, I know that now,” she said. “I was freaking out at first, but there were so many people that helped me throughout that time.”

Classmates in Lee’s group and friends she made in China lent her a cell phone, laptop, and gave her money for food. Her supervising professor also lent her money of his own while Lee got an emergency visa from the American embassy.

“It was the worst-case scenario, but thanks to everyone who was so kind it became a learning experience and one of maturing,” she added. “I had to grow up quick; I spent four extra days in Hong Kong by myself. Still, it is an experience I cherish and will never forget.”

Ralph Culpepper, senior and Public Services major, overcame his fear of swimming during his trip to Australia and the islands of Fiji.

“We were visiting the Great Barrier Reef in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by blue water all around and I’m not a strong swimmer. I was scared of the open ocean,” Culpepper said. “I couldn’t come here and not get in the water or go snorkeling like everyone else. Luckily, I had the opportunity to practice in a pool and one of the supervisors of the trip even swam out and helped me to see the beautiful coral reefs. It was an amazing experience.”

The moderator of the panel, senior and Public Policy major Alaina Reeves traveled to Belgium, Luxembourg and throughout Europe. She and the other panelists briefed students on the many opportunities that exist to help fund an excursion abroad.

Many spoke of the IEF or International Education Fee, available to all students which covers up to $1,000 in expenses towards studying abroad. The Global Experience Scholarship can award from $5,000, to upwards of $20,000 to students who have never left the country. There are also a number of scholarships for minority students. The panelists stressed getting ‘out there’ and applying for everything you can. Many found extra money, from asking small businesses and local business leaders for sponsorship, to charging money for drinks at parties. Senior and Women’s Studies major Melissa Cruz, who went to Liberia, found people to sponsor her on Facebook and a website called

“You just have to want to do it,” Cruz, said. “I missed the deadline for my program by a few weeks but I emailed the supervising professor and she was able to get me into the program immediately.”

“It’s a great thing. People are really impressed that you studied abroad,” Kea added. “I have the University of Korea on my resume now. It’s an instant conversation starter when applying for a job. Study abroad can help you stand out academically and professionally.”

All study abroad programs at Georgia State receive course credit and are open to all students except first semester freshmen. Seniors and even recent graduates can be eligible to travel abroad.

Students interested in studying abroad can get more information or meet a mentor to guide them through the process at the Office of Study Abroad at 10 Park Place South, Suite 500.

More information on scholarships available for those who want to study abroad can be found at and at the Office of Study Abroad Initiatives.

The panel was part of the Broadening Horizons Minority Mentor Program of the Office of International Initiatives and Study Abroad Programs.