Study Abroad Info and Experience Essay
The Study Abroad Programs Office helps to identify international opportunities for students
seeking an international experience and a broader perspective of the world. Last year over 1,600
students traveled to 67 countries from Argentina to China, Australia to Spain and many in between.
With over $500,000 in study abroad scholarships available at Texas A&M and numerous federal
grants to pursue education abroad, the Study Abroad Programs Office and the Office of Scholarships
and Financial Aid work with students to make an international experience a reality.
Samantha Chiu, a senior Political Science major, spent the spring 2008 semester at Peking
University's Research Center for Contemporary China studying East Asian economics, policy
reforms, and political science research methods. Researching in China for a semester gave
Samantha exposure to research techniques, allowed her to practice her Mandarin language skills,
and provided her the opportunity to make her first visit to the country where her parents were
born. A Gilman Scholarship of $5,000 and Freeman Asia Award of $5,000, both national
scholarships, helped to defray the costs of her study abroad experience.
“My most rewarding academic experience was in Xi'an, Shaanxi; one of the four great ancient
capitals of China. I assisted and attended this research workshop with a group of Texas A&M
graduate students studying political science, economics, sociology, and communication as well as
graduate researchers from universities all across China,” said Chiu. “We met for two weeks to study
advanced research methods, specifically focusing on the 2008 China Survey. Academic topics
included survey technique, new research technology, and questionnaire design. All these valuable
skills apply towards my work as a 2008-2009 Undergraduate Research Scholar at Texas A&M.
However, this workshop was not solely academic as we visited rural villages and collaborated with
international students. Unfortunately, we also experienced the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake that killed
approximately 60,000 people.”
Despite this tragedy, Samantha felt the pulse of optimism and unlimited opportunity in China as the
country prepared to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and continues on a path of
development benefitting the country and its ambitious citizens. This is the case in more than just
manufacturing and business. For three months, Samantha independently designed and taught
weekend English classes to help her students improve their English for conversation and business.
These classes will undoubtedly help her as well, providing her with new friends and business
experience she’ll need post-graduation.
Like each student who takes advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, Samantha’s journey is
unique. Students have thousands of options available to choose from, whether alone like Samantha,
or with a group of Aggies like those who send a semester or summer abroad at Texas A&M’s Study
Center in Italy. The Study Abroad Programs Office has Peer Counselors and Advisors to help
students navigate the sea of programs and national scholarships available. Departmental advisors
can help students plan their schedules around a study abroad experience so the courses add to the
students’ skill set and count toward an on-time graduation. In some academic departments,
professors have developed study abroad programs or exchanges that will fit into a students’ major.
Working together with individual students, faculty and staff can help find solutions for financial and
academic hurdles to an international experience.
“Though traveling and taking time away from A&M seems expensive and academically risky,” said
Chiu, “the experienced faculty at A&M relieved all my concerns about spending time abroad. I
approached the staff with all my questions and they helped me open the right doors.”
Programs are available to help students in any major study, work, intern, conduct research or
volunteer abroad from one week to one full academic year, including numerous opportunities
during summer sessions. Language skills are not always a prerequisite for an international
experience, although they are easily improved upon with such an immersion experience.
“Studying abroad is essential to understanding yourself, your culture, and the world you are part
of,” asserts Chiu. “Every student should experience looking out into a new landscape, because you
will return to the United States with awakened senses. Gazing out into the horizon of Beijing,
marked by skyscrapers and mountains evokes completely different emotions from when I look out
into College Station’s endless sunset.”