SUNY Oswego has one of the largest and most comprehensive study abroad programs within the SUNY system.
Story and profiles by Stefan Yablonski
The State University of New York currently offers more than 1,000 overseas study programs in more than 60 countries and all seven continents.
Programs range from two- or three-week intensive courses to a semester or academic year abroad.
At SUNY Oswego, the college offers “a multitude of semester and year-long study abroad opportunities” in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Oswego students can immerse themselves in another culture; enhance their fluency in a target language and more.
Pre-pandemic, SUNY Oswego’s Office of International Education and Programs typically had more than 400 students abroad per year, according to Josh McKeown, associate provost for international education and programs; director at OIEP.
It’s one of the largest and most comprehensive offerings in SUNY, he added.
“Post-pandemic, it took a bit to recover and it is definitely still a work in progress, but we are encouraged that this past academic year our office sent more than 250 students abroad and it’s steadily growing,” he said.
A favorite country to visit?
Oswego has over 80 programs in more than 30 countries.
Right now they are seeing huge interest in traditional destinations, including Italy and France, “as well as special offerings taking advantage of our academic strengths to Spain, Tanzania, Honduras, Japan and others,” McKeown said. “There’s also a lot of renewed interest in our Oceania programs in Australia and New Zealand which is great to see again.”
The cost varies. Some programs, like the faculty-led, are minimal as the students are abroad anywhere from one to four weeks.
“We try hard to keep those as affordable as possible,” McKeown said.
A semester program abroad can be more expensive than a standard semester in Oswego because of extra travel costs, he said, adding “but surprisingly, some programs come in under the semester costs at Oswego. For instance, one of our best exchange partners in Japan (Akita International University) is less per semester than it is for a semester in Oswego.”
Also, if a student receives financial aid, it will continue while the student is abroad and is factored into the overall cost. Plus Oswego offers many different scholarships just for SUNY Oswego students.
Students are told always apply for scholarships when prompted on the application.
The college offers many scholarships to help cover travel costs for majors and minors. There are several scholarships available to SUNY Oswego students who are participating on a SUNY Oswego study abroad program. Completing the scholarship application will allow students to be considered for any of the scholarships for which they meet the eligibility criteria.
Some campus departments offer scholarships to their major or minor students for study abroad. Students should contact their major or minor department’s office for possible scholarship opportunities and application procedures.
For faculty-led programs students just need to be in good academic standing. For semester programs it varies between partner school abroad. Some require a 2.5 or 2.75 GPA at the time of application. Others are a bit more strict with a firm 3.0 GPA at time of application.
Depending on the program the student may need two or more academic recommendations at time of application.
“Some schools require a foreign language proficiency recommendation before attending as English may not be the common language used in the classroom,” McKeown explained. Germany is
Also, it’s best to check on the country you’ll be traveling to well in advance, he recommended. A search on the CDC and WHO web sites for country-specific information can help guide each student as to what is needed before arriving.
Even though COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in most countries, every student should check if any vaccines or medical information is needed before entering a country or joining that specific program. We are here to help students navigate this process, McKeown said.
“We know our programs and locations well and partner carefully to provide safe and secure experiences,” McKeown said. “Studying abroad is definitely something that moves students out of their comfort zone, but that’s typically what’s appealing and exciting about it. Traveling involves preparation and of course some risks, but — just like we are seeing tourism travel booming right now after a long pandemic — we are seeing study abroad resume strongly as well. It’s a great time to consider going.”
The US Department of State also has a page on its website designated for students going to study abroad: https://studyabroad.state.gov/
“In terms of international students attending SUNY Oswego, Asia tends to send the most; particularly students from India, Nepal and elsewhere in South Asia are well enrolled at Oswego. Also we see growing enrollments from Nigeria, Ghana and elsewhere in Africa and Korea, China, and Canada are consistently strong for us,” he said.
• 20% of SUNY Oswego students study abroad
• There are 300 international students currently studying at SUNY Oswego
• 65 countries are represented on SUNY Oswego’s campus
Study Abroad: South Korea, Thailand
Oswego student’s hair sparks interest in South Korea
Favoured-Joy Oghenekome hopes some day to return to the countries she visited as a student.
“I studied at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea, and the College of Management, Mahidol University, in Bangkok, Thailand,” she said. Oghenekome is a global–international studies major with minors in international business and peace and conflict studies.
“One of the most interesting things happened in South Korea. Older ladies on the train would often touch my hair randomly to feel the texture,” she recalled. “It was fascinating because they rarely asked for permission — but they were always nice and gave me compliments on my hair!”
“It was also fascinating that I was able to create a bond with an older lady who ran a restaurant that I frequented. She spoke no English and I barely spoke Korean. But she was always nice and caring,” she added. “She has a photo of her and myself hanging in her store and she cried when I told her I was leaving. It was beautiful.”
“One memorable moment was when I went to see PSY in concert, the singer well-known for Gangnam style. He noticed me and my friends in the crowd. He had a brief conversation with us where he asked where we were from and welcomed us to Korea.”
The trip, to both Korea and Thailand, was invaluable, she said.
“I enhanced stress management skills, adaptability, cross-cultural communication and interpersonal skills, which differed in both countries and the US,” she said. “I also got to network and create valuable connections in both countries. I sincerely look forward to revisiting South Korea and Thailand.”
“I felt very safe physically in South Korea. While people would stare at me or make comments, no one ever expressed aggression towards me,” she added. “I never felt my life was in danger for any reason, especially as there were CCTV cameras almost everywhere.”
While she understood some basic Korean before her trip, “it was quite easy to navigate; even for those with no knowledge of the language,” she explained. “The road signs were mostly translated and buses and trains made announcements in multiple languages — including English, Chinese and Japanese. However, knowing or an interest in learning the language will help build bonds with locals.”
Study Abroad: Semester at Sea
Not your typical sea cruise
Kiara Montero is a recent graduate from SUNY Oswego with a Bachelors of Arts in broadcasting and mass communication.
“During my first semester of senior year I did the Semester at Sea program with Colorado State University. Considering I was living on a ship with more than 600 people from all around the world for four months, I was constantly crossing paths with someone from a new culture and was always able to take away a valuable experience and a new perspective.
Whether they were at sea or in country, she said she constantly found herself being challenged.
“But these challenges made room for growing experiences for me that I may have never had back at my home university,” she added.
Her most memorable moment from her trip was her second port — Casablanca, Morocco.
“I had an incredible host family that welcomed me into their home and gave me the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of their culture. They also gave me the opportunity to teach them about my own,” she said.
Prior to this trip, she didn’t travel out of the country often.
“So traveling to 10 countries within four months for the first time was a new ballpark for me,” she said. “But now I’m confident that I’m travel savvy. And despite language barriers, I was still able to connect with individuals across the globe!”
Study Abroad: Japan
Japan experience created ‘deer’ memories
Thomas Cafarella is studying broadcasting and mass communication with a minor in political science at SUNY Oswego.
His trip to Japan will help him communicate with everyone in the future.
“The course that I was on was a part of the GLS [global learning studies] program, meaning that it was done entirely through SUNY Oswego and not with a college overseas,” he said. “I spent time in Japan visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.”
“Sometimes, the most shocking thing to think about was the time zone difference. Japan is 12, sometimes 13 hours ahead of our time zone,” Cafarella added. “I was at a restaurant eating sushi and everyone I knew back home was asleep. That opened my eyes to the fact that we are not the only ones on this planet and there is so much more to our beautiful planet than where we are now.”
A moment he will never forget was his day in Nara Park, he said.
“Nara is well-known for the deer that surround the area. The park was peaceful and gorgeous,” he said.
According to the internet, he added, “the deer bow to you.”
“I am here to confirm that, yes that is very true! Our class even named one. If you ever find yourself in Nara Park, say ‘hi’ to Melvin, would ya?”
This trip gave him “a priceless experience.”
“The line of work I want to go into is all about listening to people so we can tell their stories. It is likely to talk with someone not from the area and might be afraid to open up to someone unknown,” Cafarella said. “But travel gives you another way to find a mutual connection between you and someone else. If you can find that mutual connection, it can provide a sense of comfort when opening up about hardships.”
“What made my trip so easy to digest is that it was faculty-led by a SUNY Oswego professor. There was no international universitys involved in my trip; all through SUNY Oswego.”
Travel Abroad: Czech Republic, Australia
She says travel can be ‘life-changing, amazing and scary’
Abigail Lashinsky said her time abroad helped her grow as a person.
She was a double major — wellness management and psychology with an athletic coaching minor at SUNY Oswego. She is a 2023 graduate.
Lashinsky studied at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.
“I completed a full semester at this university and I completed an internship with the University of Ostrava — I also completed a wellness course in Australia through SUNY Oswego for three weeks,” she said.
“I think the most interesting thing was learning and navigating cultural differences and everyday living,” she added. “Through several of the classes I took in the Czech Republic we discussed Czech culture, policies, etc, and compared them to all the international students’ home countries. I remember several times my friends and I would sit around asking each other questions about our lives.
“I think exploring each of our differences and similarities led to many shocking moments. I experienced multiple friends of mine having s’mores for the first time!”
In the past, she always traveled with family or with a group of people, she said.
“So this was the first time I was traveling by myself. No one from any SUNY school was completing this program in the Czech Republic program. With this being said, at first, I found it to be very overwhelming and scary. But once I arrived at the university and met other international students and started traveling around Europe, I realized how freeing it was,” she said. “Looking back, it is incredible how much I grew as a person and how much I learned about myself.
I believe sometimes we have to step outside our comfort zone and push our limits to realize how capable we really are. So, my most memorable moment was when I recognized that I can travel and navigate difficult situations and not be so scared.”
She added that she “felt very safe traveling both in Europe and in Australia.”
At the conclusion of her experience, she traveled to around 13 countries with friends and by herself.
“Personally, I put in place proper safety precautions and completed prior planning, which made me feel more comfortable traveling,” she said.
She described the experience as “invaluable.”
“I grew so much as an individual and made amazing friends.
I was once asked to describe my experience in five words and replied with ‘Life-changing, growth, independence, amazing, scary,’” she said.
Travel Abroad: Italy
Italy trip provides memories to last a lifetime
Nick Thelen said a tour of the Vatican was an incredible experience.
Thelen, a French and global studies double major at SUNY Oswego, did a quarter-course through SUNY Oswego’s OIEP [Office of International Education and Programs]with professors Juan LaManna and Ligia LaManna.
“We went to Italy — visiting Rome, Florence and Venice,” he said.
The most shocking experience that he had was walking through the Vatican and Sistine Chapel.
“The ceiling was huge, everything was very ornate and the art was incredible!” he said. “They had statues lined up through every corridor and the amount of detail in each piece was really impressive. These were pieces that I’ve only seen pictures of. So witnessing them in person was truly remarkable.”
One of his favorite parts of the trip was going to Piazza Navona in Rome, he added.
“We were taking a small break after doing some walking. And while we were sitting there, there was a man playing the cimbalom [a type of string instrument]. It was so moving to hear it echo in the square with the sound of fountains in the background,” he recalled.
The trip was “an incredibly valuable experience.”
“Many of us were able to gain a sense of independence, navigate new cultures and work around differences that evidently brought us closer together,” he explained. “It was a very rewarding trip with memories that we’ll look back on for the rest of our lives!”
He said that he felt very safe most of the time.
“Walking at night was a bit more concerning, but I never had any issues throughout the trip,” he added. “Everyone that I talked to was so polite and kind and the people were always very helpful if you ever needed help with something.”
There were a few language barriers at moments, he said — “but many of us were able to get by fairly easily. In preparation for when we did have a language barrier, we had practiced some basic Italian prior to departing.”
In most cases, there was someone who spoke English to help the group, he said. “But our faculty advisers, as well as one student who had studied Italian in high school, were the ones who helped us best when communicating,” he said.
Travel Abroad: Spain
Trip was a useful career building block
Katie Huestis is a Spanish–Spanish education double major at SUNY Oswego.
She studied at the University of Barcelona in Spain.
“My program coordinators took me to a live Flamenco concert in Barcelona and it was amazing!” she said. “As a music and culture lover, it was so cool to see that important piece of Spanish culture in person.”
A memorable moment from her trip was when she visited La Sagrada Familia — a large church in Barcelona.
“I went with my tour guide Fabio and I was the only one on the trip. Fabio explained the history of the church to me as we walked through it together,” she said. “My favorite part was seeing the reflection of the windows inside of the church on the floor, and learning about the meaning and choices made by the designer Gaudí when designing the church.”
She later went on to research more about his design and write a paper about it for her classes, she added.
“As a Spanis–Spanish education major, I feel that this trip was extremely valuable. Not only did I have the opportunity to visit another country and continue to take classes; but, I had the opportunity to meet new people and immerse myself in their culture,” she said. “I believe that this experience helped me to learn more about my content area (of Spanish), improve my language skills, and cultivate relationships with many people from Spain — all of which I believe will be useful in my career as a Spanish teacher.”