Bellevue College offers numerous places around the world to study abroad. Fall of 2022 is offering trips to Tokyo/Hachioji, Japan and Barcelona, Spain. Japan is quite popular and is already full, but the deadline for the Barcelona trip has been extended to July 20. These are not the only places they offer, there are also two countries in one with Melbourne, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand during Winter 2023; Rome, Italy in Spring 2023; Japan again and Cusco, Peru in Fall 2023; Berlin, Germany in Spring 2024; and others in future quarters. This is done through the Washington State Community College Consortium for Study Abroad (WCCCSA) which joins the resources of 17 community colleges. This allows them to offer four quarterly programs plus one summer program to community college students.
While studying abroad, courses are offered, usually ones that are sufficient for general education requirements. While classes in STEM and business are offered, mostly the courses are composed of the following: English, political science, sociology, history, art appreciation, music study, and other humanities and liberal arts courses. For some locations, such as Barcelona, it is required while there to study a language, in this case, Spanish. This is not a prerequisite. Students will take an exam to see which class best suits their language skills. Additionally, for students who exceed, the college will work with the student to create a research plan and the student will receive credits for independent study.
Any Bellevue College student is able to apply. The study abroad coordinator, Li Liu, said that from her promotional experience, “Community college students have this preconceived notion that study abroad experience is not for them … Many students don’t know that this opportunity exists and much fewer students believe that this is in their reach.” She then goes on to explain that it is not a competitive process and that many students are still undecided. Additionally, it is very budget-friendly and boasts multiple scholarships for applicants. Especially for students who plan to transfer to a four-year university, studying abroad through Bellevue College is much cheaper and helps students to stand out. Lastly, it is open to Running Start and international students as long as they meet the requirements.
As for applying, students must have a minimum of a 2.5 GPA, have taken or plan to take prior to departing 12 Bellevue College academic credits, and are 18 years or older although 17-year-olds are permitted with a signed parental waiver form. Then applicants must fill out the documents, forms, and other requirements for the preliminary application which then can be forwarded to Liu. The application submission process is on a rolling basis which means after Liu receives the application, applicants will have a meeting with her. Currently, these are done over virtual calls, and on the call, they will talk about the particulars. It also allows Liu to get to know applicants and respond to any questions. After the initial approval, Liu will send more documents to fill out, although the spot is not officially held until a deposit has been submitted. This is when scholarships come into play.
After the initial approval, students can start applying for scholarships. When applying to the program, start the process early so that enough time is allowed to apply for scholarships. The scholarships can be split up into three categories. First are those embedded into particular programs which apply to that specific program and their experience. Second are the open scholarships — these make up most of the available scholarships. Lastly, the WCCCSA offers scholarships to two applicants for each program. During the main quarters, they offer two $1,000 scholarships and during the summer, they offer two $500 scholarships.
In past years, Liu has heard how transformative the experience is as many students are living in a dorm for the first time and having to do their own laundry, grocery shopping, and experience living on their own. Applicants can feel safe as they have a sophisticated risk management safety net and are connected back to the Bellevue College campus. Coming back from the pandemic, Liu expressed how she “hopes one of the things we could have learned from the COVID-19 is that connection is important, immersive experience is essential when it comes to intercultural communication competence and it is a tremendous transformative opportunity for personal growth.”