The International Center, a headquarters to students from over 50 nations and current students looking to broaden their college experience, has had a tough time gaining the attention of students.
The small building at 37 Lower College Road houses the University of Rhode Island’s National Student Exchange, Faculty Led Programs, Study Abroad and International Students and Scholars and is largely self-supported.
“Five [of the seven] funds are self-funded from study abroad administrative fees,” Dania Brandford-Calvo said. As the director of the department, she manages each fund which finances each program in the department.
The fees that make up the funds are from the semester, J-semester, faculty led, summer institutes, scholar, researcher and intern fees. Funds also come in from visa fees of students entering from different countries. A small portion of the department’s funds come from a general fund allocated to the department, and Brandford said she designates “a good portion” of the required off campus study fee to scholarships that help students support their study abroad.
“Getting the word out more aggressively than before,” Brandford said, explaining what the department is currently doing to reach more students on campus. She said students notice the efforts being pushed by the department including media blasts, URI programs such as welcome day, URI 101 presentations as well as holding fairs and general information sessions. These programs help applicants with possible financial issues as well as reaching students who may be unaware of the programs offered on campus.
“There has been a large increase. A good part of this is the cost while away and the introduction of the J-semester and more short-term URI sponsored summer programs,” Brandford said, describing the increase in URI students choosing to study abroad.
There has only been a slight increase of international studies choosing to study at URI, however.
Amie Limon, coordinator of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said they receive “enough funds to support the department.” Limon, who advises international students coming into the university, said that many students fear not fitting in.
She handles everything from immigration matters to student visa paperwork. Another part of her work is making sure students are comfortable and involved in campus activities. Although students have unanimously stated that the costs of each program can be quite scary, Limon said, “you just have to go for it.”
“One of the real and perceived obstacles is the financial barrier,” Assistant Director Tom Hospod said, adding that there are more ways to assist students financially with studying abroad. Hospod said that “many students are not aware” of the Gilman scholarship and other available scholarships, many receiving only a few applicants.
“With the Gilman scholarship, we’re just trying to get the word out to students that this money is there for you,” Hospod said. Similar to any other higher education scholarship, the Gilman is not guaranteed. However according to Hospod, the scholarship is available to students to help get rid of any financial burden when choosing to study abroad.
According to Hospod, in 2008 there were plans to move the International Center into a new facility across from the Multicultural Center. For now, the future of the International Center looks bright as the staff continues to expand the department, its resources and its accessibility to current and future students.
The International Center is currently hosting the Financing Study Abroad series that gives information to students about financial guidance and scholarship opportunities. Financing Study Abroad Series’ next informational, Funding Short-term Programs Abroad, is Feb. 25 at noon.