Learning outside of the classroom

By Ulises Vargas

(Jan Schall)

By Ulises Vargas

Students often dream of traveling the world, never realizing how close that dream actually is.

It’s a program that is a rarity among community colleges: the Study Abroad Program at Riverside City College.

“Study Abroad has been at RCC for nearly 20 years,” Jan Schall, coordinator for Study Abroad said.

“Less than two percent of community colleges have Study Abroad.”

The Study Abroad Program at RCC lets students experience a semester at either Oxford, England or Florence, Italy.

“It began with an international committee to infuse global agenda and to get students out of the country to experience other cultures,” Schall said.

“Our first trip was to Oxford, England and it’s grown ever since.”

Study Abroad offers students the chance to travel across the world and take semester long classes, while experiencing new world cultures and visiting historic sites.

“Our semester programs are 11 to 12 weeks long and classes are held Monday through Thursday usually ending around 1:30 p.m.” Schall said.

“We want to let them experience the country they’re in, so we give them three-day weekends and a week off to travel.”

This program allows students to take transferable college classes overseas, while experiencing a new life and culture.

“In the spring, students travel to Oxford, England, where students stay in a home with a British family and are provided two meals a day,” Schall said.

“They study at Oriel College, one of the Oxford University colleges.”

“In the fall, students experience Florence, Italy, where they stay in furnished apartments in the old historic area of Florence,” Schall said.

Students take classes at Centro Linquistico Italiano Dante Alighieri, the highest ranking language school in Europe.

The nearly 20 year old program is designed to include all programs, projects, studies and activities that encourage students to learn, understand and care about the world beyond their community.

“We have two faculty members who travel with the students,” Schall said. “Faculty apply for the program and go through an interview.”

Even with all those benefits, the program has gone through a decline in student interest.

“After September 11, people were afraid to travel,” Schall said. “But only nine days later, we sent 32 students and two faculty members to Italy.”

“There is incredible interest in Study Abroad, but the cost is becoming more prohibited because of the weakened dollar. It’s a tough time for Study Abroad, and yet this is the time students need to take a look at other cultures and societies,” Schall said.

“It sounds like a great opportunity,” RCC student, Brenda Buckley said. “The only problem is the prices, but I wouldn’t mind paying for an experience of a lifetime.”

Average costs for a semester-long program are between $6,000 and $7,000.

But for qualifying students, financial aid can be used.

“When they come home they look at America differently,” Schall said. “I think on one hand they appreciate the lives they have here, and on the other hand they come back more critical of American lives.”

“I have always wanted to travel the world,” Priscilla Longhue said. “I am definitely considering taking the program after seeing the presentation.”

Longhue, an RCC student, is one of the students across campus who have seen one of the many presentations Schall exhibits.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for students and it makes a huge difference in their lives,” Schall said. “They come back changed.”

Throughout the years, the district has sent students to Mexico, Japan, Spain, France, England, Italy, Prague and Greece.