How SUNY Oswego’s wanderlust students can navigate studying abroad

OSWEGO, N.Y. – SUNY Oswego’s Education Abroad Office staff said there is no time like the present to study abroad, and they can provide the resources to make the dreams of wanderlust students a reality.

With the end of the fall 2023 semester in sight, the study abroad application process is in full swing for students looking for programs during the winter break, spring semester, and summer break.

The Education Abroad Office offers over 30 different programs and 80 countries from which to choose and allows students to study overseas in programs and countries offered through other SUNY schools.

“Through this experience, they [students] learn how to problem solve by adapting to a new language, customs, culture, and terrain – all while earning credits that will transfer back and count towards their graduation,” said Education Abroad Office Marketing Manager Kris Adams in a statement via email.

As a study abroad mentor with the Education Abroad Office, student Thomas Cafarella hosts walk-up hours in Penfield Library. He wears a black “Oswego Abroad” T-shirt to encourage students to approach him with questions.

“I just had such a great time with the Oswego Abroad international program that I wanted to kind of help students realize that this is an opportunity for everybody,” said Cafarella.

Studying abroad is a requirement to be a study abroad mentor, said Cafarella. He then underwent an application and interview process to get the position.

Study abroad mentor and student Johnnise Crespo tables in Marano Campus Center weekly, providing advice, encouragement, and printed resources to inquiring students.

“The first thing I ask students who come up to the table is ‘What are you looking for? What’s your dream country?’” said Crespo.

The most common concern students have is financial affordability, according to Crespo.

Addressing study abroad concerns

If a student is worried about affording a trip, they may use financial aid and apply for general and country-specific scholarships, according to Adams’s email statement.

Adams also suggested asking for cash holiday and birthday gifts and picking up a part-time job. GoFundMe pages have also worked for students.

Study abroad mentor and student Elizabeth Mullé was concerned about the enrollment process itself. Mullé was scared to reach out for help at first and said she was very overwhelmed. She completed one piece of paperwork per day.

Having now gone through the process, Mullé tells students not to be scared.

“Every full-time worker and even the student workers, I feel like, are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Mullé.

The application process is tedious, but Crespo’s program coordinator made it easy, said Crespo. There is a designated program coordinator for each country.

“She helped me step-by-step. I went to her office, and we got it all done within a day,” said Crespo. “Everyone’s super helpful.”

Sophomore broadcasting and mass communications major Reilly Jones is interested in studying abroad but is still hesitant to enroll in a program.

“I think my own self-doubt and intimidation is the only thing that’s telling me not to,” said Jones.

Crespo suggested starting small to students nervous about culture shock and homesickness.

“We do have faculty-led programs which only last for a week or two, and I think that’s how they should start off. If they do want to do a semester, I would say research. Research the culture, watch YouTube videos and stuff, so that you already know what you’re getting into and can be more prepared for it,” said Crespo.

The study abroad experience and benefits

Crespo studied for a full semester in Akita, Japan, where she did cultural classes, which taught flower vase-making, tea ceremony, and traditions of Japanese religion.

“Just being out there and being immersed in that language helped my language proficiency a lot,” said Crespo. She said she also sees the world differently and has a better understanding of different people and their cultures.

Mullé went to Rome, Florence, and Venice for a quarter-led music course. During one week, she saw a concert in every city and witnessed the beauty of art and churches.

“The Vatican in St. Peter’s was stunning,” said Mullé. “I’m not that religious but when I walked into St. Peter’s, I started tearing up because it was absolutely insane how much time was spent on it and how gorgeous it is on the inside.”

Cafarella studied in Japan for one week.

“You know, it’s something, regardless of money, that I don’t think you can ever really get back, especially when you’re this young and you know, you’re so impressionable at this age. It really makes it a fantastic experience and I definitely would do it again,” said Cafarella.