Study abroad: experience of a lifetime

With endless options, multiple countries, and unforgettable experiences, study abroad programs at Saint Mary’s University offer a life-changing opportunity.

Dr. John Reed, Saint Mary’s professor of Spanish studies, said that it was transformational to see the world from another view when he spent the academic year abroad in Madrid in the 1980s. “That is something that has stuck with me and has just really opened my eyes in many ways,” he said. Reed said that the experience not only brought his Spanish fluency to a new level, but it prompted him to pay more attention to what was going on in the world, along with the added bonus of extensive European travel.

Reed said that full immersion into a culture builds not only language skills, but lends experiences of different people, places, and customs that are unparalleled in a classroom. The Spanish Studies program offers a range of programs with the institution, hosting courses in Spanish and English, but it also offers courses on campus at universities in Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, where American students can study alongside native students, completely immersed in their language and style of study.

Reed also said that if students have a specific city or country that they wish to travel to, not offered by the affiliate programs, then there are options available for them too. The process generally involves an honorable withdrawal and re application to SMU upon return. Also available to students are short-term, three credit, study abroad opportunities that are faculty-led and correspond to a class taken at the university. “We want the students to go to the program that will best fit their interests,” said Reed, also mentioning that internships abroad are offered to students as well.

Saint Mary’s provides an array of different study abroad opportunities, not only for those students studying Spanish. Vicki McDonald, coordinator of study abroad at SMU, is the main connection for students wishing to broaden their horizons. SMU owns a faculty-led, semester-long London program, the short-term Business and Culture in Europe program, and other short-term faculty-led programs. The university is also affiliated with Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), Study Abroad Italy (SAI), Cimba, and the Spanish Studies programs. If somehow one of these programs doesn’t check every student’s boxes, then McDonald can also offer information and recommendations to non-affiliate program providers, including those of American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) and Academic Programs International (API). These programs still offer transfer credit to students, if the university accepts it.

Along with programs, SMU can also offer students financial aid assistance in order to help make their cultural dreams a reality. When going on a program owned by SMU (the London trip, for example) all student aid applies. The Saint Mary’s gift aid, including scholarships, is capped at $2,000 for the affiliate programs. Scholarships offered outside of SMU can be found on the university’s study abroad website. McDonald can assist students in handling aid, scheduling flights, orientation meetings, and most other issues that students might need help with. “It would be an ideal way to be able to experience something…envision the world from a new place,” said McDonald, “…I think you have to have the mentality of being able to live life and wanting to experience it.” Working with McDonald, students can usually stay on their four-year graduation plan, while going abroad and experiencing a whole new world.

Those interested in more information about study abroad opportunities can contact Vicki McDonald at or visit the SMU study abroad website:



Sarah Walker

Staff Writer

Author: oaoste14

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