By Max Singer
This spring quarter, Whatcom Community College’s International Programs department will be taking a trip to Prague, Czech Republic for the first time.
Whatcom’s Associate Director of International Programs Ulrich Schraml said he was happy to see “lots of first-time international travelers” in the group.
Schraml said these trips usually consist of 15-25 students and an accompanying adviser. This year, the group will be departing at the end of March and will return in early June, he said.
In Prague, attendees will stay in apartment-style housing, Schraml said. “Lodging, local course selection and logistics” are handled by the American Institute for Foreign Studies (AIFS), an organization that aids Whatcom and other colleges in arranging these types of trips, he said.
Students who go on the trip are required to take a minimum of 10 credits in the Czech Life and Culture courses, taught by guest lecturers from the surrounding area, Schraml said. These courses will focus on historical, political, economic and cultural aspects of Prague and the Czech Republic, he said, adding that a maximum of 15 credits can be taken which count for humanities or elective credits.
The current fee for students wishing to participate in the trip is $6,245. Schraml said this pays for housing, any necessary transportation, various activities, medical coverage and general program costs such as course fees.
Airfare, meals and personal expenses are not included. Once a student factors in the location, duration of the stay and unique travel experience, “it really is quite affordable,” Schraml said.
A full study abroad checklist including requirements and other important details can be found in Whatcom’s International Programs office, Schraml said.
A minimum GPA of 2.5 and two letters of recommendation along with an unofficial copy of a student’s transcript are required to participate, as well as a one-page letter explaining why the student wants to attend the trip. All interested applicants can speak to Schraml for more information concerning the program.
Prior Whatcom student and the current Registration Program Assistant for Whatcom Chris Evans said he went on an exchange with Whatcom to Australia and New Zealand three years ago.
“In each country, we studied biology, history and culture,” and activities consisted of a “mix of meetings, classroom and actual experience,” Evans said.
Whatcom works with the Washington State Community College Consortium for Study Abroad (WCCCSA) said Schraml, which connects community colleges with other schools around the world. This means that Whatcom students will still be enrolled in the United States but can earn credits in the other country with freedom to travel, he added.
Classes usually take place Monday through Thursday, leaving Friday and the weekend to explore the area and visit local attractions, Schraml said.
The next trip the International Programs department has planned is to Costa Rica, where students will have the opportunity to live with host families and earn elective credits, said Schraml.
One of the major hurdles most students have to overcome is financial aid, but students can apply for scholarships to pay for a portion of their exchange, Schraml said.
To assist students with their educational finances, Whatcom will be holding a scholarship workshop on February 3 regarding entry requirements and process steps, Schraml said.
Organization and time management are essential for successfully participating in these trips, and most arrangements are taken care of in advance, said Schraml.
“You don’t need to worry much about scheduling” once actually on the trip, Evans said. “Any time would be beneficial” to go on this type of trip, and “you’ll learn a ton,” he added.
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