Greek Life study abroad panel broadens horizons

Olivia Fellows, The Lanthorn

Traveling and studying abroad can be one of the most beneficial and exciting experiences for a college student, and at Grand Valley State University there are over 4,000 study abroad programs that help students connect with resources and programs to plan their travels. On Jan. 25, the Padnos International Center (PIC) hosted a panel that included students who studied abroad while involved in Greek life, who answered questions and shared their experiences.

Last year, 782 students from GVUS studied abroad in over 30 countries. GVSU has numerous program locations in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America. The PIC works with GVSU organizations and communities greek life to create personalized travel plans with students who still want to maintain their status in a fraternity or sorority while studying abroad. The event panel included five Greek Life students who studied abroad both during and outside of the school year.

Angela Harris, Assistant Study Abroad Outreach Coordinator for the PIC, said that events like the Greek Life panel help students become aware of more opportunities on campus, and lets them know that they can study abroad even if they are in other organizations on campus.

“We wanted to reach out to the greek organizations and encourage their members to consider studying abroad because a lot of Greek Life students don’t realize they have this opportunity,” Harris said, “To hear about experiences from students who are in Greek Life helps other students see that there is the possibility of studying abroad even with busy sorority or fraternity schedules and dues.”

The cost of programs can be a deterrent for some students who are considering studying abroad during college. Students typically pay for study abroad through a combination of financial aid, scholarship, grants and personal funds. The PIC offers numerous scholarships like the Barbara H. Padnos scholarship which provides $5,000-$15,000 of funding for year-long study abroad program, or university scholarships like the Cultural Engagement Study Abroad Scholarship, which helps fund study abroad opportunities for students who want to learn and experience new cultures. GVSU also allows any financial aid that a student receives to be applied to a study abroad program.

Connor Cavallaro, a GVSU senior and panelist representing Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at the event, said that his experience studying abroad in Italy was priceless, and he considers traveling while in college to be a worthwhile experience for anyone looking to broaden their horizons, especially if they are in Greek life.

“It’s an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and experience different cultures and things you aren’t used to or wouldn’t normally do,” Cavallaro said. “But it’s also an opportunity to grow and bring back those experiences to your Greek chapter and maybe encourage your brothers or sisters to do the same.”