A university heavily involved in politics and global affairs, Mason boasts a far-reaching study abroad program that lets students choose from a list of 45 different sites around the world. From summer and winter break programs to semester-long offerings and even internships abroad, there is truly something for everyone, regardless of whether one is looking to earn credit for a major, gain work experience or simply explore the unknown.

This year alone, the Center for Global Education is offering nine brand-new programs, including two intensive language study programs (Italian in Bologna and Arabic in Morocco), an internship in Rabat, psychology in Cyprus, Arab Spring at Oxford and a British Invasion music course in England, among others. The CGE uses a variety of methods to develop new study abroad programs. Not only do they receive proposals from faculty members hoping to look at a question or an area of study in-depth, but they also monitor the student body to see if there is any interest in a certain program, says CGE General Manager Marie Alice Arnold.

Paige Impink, a junior double-majoring in English and communications, traveled to Granada last summer for a four-week language intensive program in Spanish; Rachel Bruns, a senior global affairs major with a concentration in global economy and management, went on the Great Cities program during winter break, which included trips to Berlin, Budapest, BelGrade and Sarajevo; and Megan O’Dell, a senior global affairs major concentrating in global governance, went to Bordeaux to study French this past winter.

Impink was able to earn six credits toward her Spanish minor by participating in a class that met for five hours every day.

“The classes were small, about ten people each,” she said. “So it was easy to get to know other people, and since it was an international school, we could only talk to each other in Spanish, which was good practice. It was nice to meet other students with a common interest in Spanish.”

In addition to the regularly scheduled classes, Impink and her new friends went on excursions to various places; one weekend, they visited Morocco and Madrid.O’Dell also emphasized the intensity of study abroad programs.

“We had to cram an entire semester’s worth of work into the two-week time span [of the trip],” she said. “Monday to Friday, we had French class from 9 a.m. to noon at L’Alliance Francais (a school to teach French to international students). After our lunch break, we would either return to have an afternoon class session or go on excursions of the city… We toured the city, visited several museums, were educated about wine tasting and even took a French cooking class.”

During her tour of Central and Eastern Europe, Bruns learned a lot about the social and political climate of that region of the world, discovering that many countries, such as Serbia and Bosnia, still struggle with post-communist strife. In this way, studying in a foreign country can provide indispensable insight into the nature of contemporary society.

“It’s not possible for me to pick one day or city that was the highlight of my trip,” Bruns said. “The entire experience of ‘being there’ made it all worth it. In the classroom, you can’t walk into the cells of a Stassi prison, touch the wall of the Srebrenica memorial, stand next to the oldest crown jewels of Europe… tread on the harrowed grounds of a concentration camp, be in the same place and space as the history before us.”

Perhaps the most frequently cited concern of students who choose not to do study abroad at Mason is the financial burden, as most of these trips cost thousands of dollars in tuition, not to mention the expenses of living overseas. However, as Arnold points out, all study abroad programs are eligible for financial aid. Every individual’s need is different. For example, O’Dell said, “Financially, I knew this would be tough so I saved for several months and so did my parents. We couldn’t get financial aid for this, but we worked hard to save enough money.”

On the other hand, Impink received scholarships for studying during both the fall and the spring semesters, so cost was not a huge issue for her.

“There are millions of ways [to manage the financial aspect of studying abroad],” she said. “The Center for Global Education is good at helping students meet their financial needs.”

All three students agree that studying abroad is a crucial element of college education and encourage other students to participate in at least one program before graduating.

“Whether you have been abroad before or not, whether you are a freshman or a senior… there will always be positive experiences that you will gain [from studying abroad],” O’Dell said. “Experiencing another culture will help you understand other people and yourself. It will not only broaden your horizons in regards to conceptualizing other cultures, but it will help you gain a deeper understanding of your own culture as well.”