Students say `si,’ ‘ya’ and ‘sim’ to summer studies

August 20, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

Story by Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau

This will make you jealous: GCU student Jenna Stovall studied abroad this summer in Italy. (Photo courtesy of Jenna Stovall)

This will make you jealous: GCU student Jenna Stovall (far left) studied abroad this summer in Italy. (Photo courtesy of Jenna Stovall)

Grand Canyon University junior Jenna Stovall spent her summer in school. Don’t feel too bad for her though — her classroom view was the Italian countryside.

Stovall, 19, was one of four GCU students participating this summer in the University’s study abroad program to earn degree credits at international universities. The program, which started in January, is part of GCU’s growing Global Studies Portfolio and offers students the option to earn elective or degree program credits through academic-year mission trips or semesterlong summer programs while studying abroad. Other students went to Germany, Brazil and England, and 10 students are planning to study abroad during mission trips this academic year.

The experience opened Stovall’s eyes to the way international students learn. She encourages other students to pursue the option to study abroad during college before post-graduate jobs and financial issues get in the way.

“It was great because I was able to take painting and photography courses in Italy — a place that is known for its art — that went toward my major and it was totally affordable,” said Stovall, who earned credits toward a graphic design degree while at Tuscia University in Viterbo, Italy, near Rome.

“I like taking classes on campus, but the different classroom setting and learning (in another country) is something you just can’t experience at GCU,” she said, noting many of her classes were held outdoors.

Students can choose between two or four-credit options for mission trips, lasting up to three weeks, and can earn a maximum of eight credits for multiple trips. Summer programs offer up to 19 credits. The cost of credits varies but is in-line with or cheaper than traditional credits. Students must fill out application forms to study abroad and have prospective credits approved by their college’s dean, if they wish to pursue courses that count toward their degree rather than electives.

GCU is partnered with the University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC), which organizes international courses for students at universities in 43 cities across 26 countries. All international credits earned while studying abroad are exchanged to those that apply at GCU. USAC arranges travel, room and board for students, and can even provide meals, if the option is selected. Students are responsible for funding their travel and all personal expenses.

Dr. Kevin Thrasher, former executive director for GCU’s Center for Learning and Advancement, created a number of tips and considerations for students concerning international study — ranging from financing the trip to applying for a passport — that can be found on the CLA website.

Thrasher has travelled to 27 countries and encourages students to research optiosn to study abroad to obtain a “global perspective” on learning. Many students return with a deeper understanding of other cultures and the practices of other universities, which Thrasher said GCU can benefit from by applying to its own practices.

“Part of the University’s mission is to develop global citizens, so this is a perfect opportunity for us to fulfill that mission,” Thrasher said. “I think everyone in the University community benefits from our students going abroad. When students return, they share what they learned with the rest of us and we are able to apply that to what we do.

“It’s a ripple in the pond. The students throw the pebble in by travelling and we all reap the benefits,” he said.

GCU student Jacob Schmick can speak German now, having studied abroad this summer in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Schmick)

GCU student Jacob Schmick can speak German now, having studied abroad this summer in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Schmick)

Jacob Schmick can now understand and speak German after taking language courses while studying abroad at Leuphana University in Lüneburg in northern Germany.

Schmick, 19, wanted to take a foreign language course as one of his required elective credits and figured learning German in Germany, where he was required to speak and understand the language anyway, would be beneficial. Schmick  returned with a new understanding about learn and retaining information and plans to teach the language to his peers at GCU this year.

“It sounds cliché, but the experience was life-changing,” he said.

“The opportunity of being educated in another country, to me, is something that is almost necessary for students to experience.”

Students who wish to study abroad are advised to meet with their academic and financial counselors to ensure they are in good-standings prior to travel. USAC offers a number of scholarships to students, which can cover more than half of the trip’s expenses. Students can also use financial aid and student loans to fund their travel.

More information on Global Studies Portfolio options and access to the study abroad application form can be found here.For questions about GCU’s Study Abroad Program, email Breanna Boling at

Contact Cooper Nelson at 602-639-7511 or

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