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Photo courtesy of Ivan Breen
Photo courtesy of Ivan Breen

Bellevue College, in cooperation in with the Washington Community College Consortium for Study Abroad, presents a unique experience for students interested in studying in another country. There are currently five students in another country through Bellevue College, all living in Florence, Italy. There are many more students overall, as 16 schools statewide belong to the Consortium.

When applying, it is not necessary to be a full time student, but students need to have at least 12 accredited college credits and a GPA of 2.5 or above. If this checks out, the next step is to write a short essay and have two letters of recommendation. Next, a deposit must be made to reserve a spot on the trip as full payment will not be required immediately if signing up  this early.

According to Jack Hemstreet, one of the five students currently living in Florence, “All the kids in the program went to an orientation a few weeks before the departure. We went over housing, laws, cultural shock, pretty much everything, you need to know and any questions were answered. Plus, we meet our teacher then and briefly get to meet all the students.” The time between filling out the paperwork and getting on the plane “was a few months…the deadline was sometime in January and we flew out late March.” Overall, the average fee for the entire package is $8,500-$10,000, though financial aid, grants and scholarships are available to students.

Once in the country, the students set up wherever they previously arranged to be living, preparing to begin class. Several of the programs will grant 15 Bellevue College credits. All WCCSA programs have been approved by Bellevue college. “What’s really nice about going on WCCSA-sponsored programs, is that students are taking Bellevue College classes, they automatically get Bellevue College credit that they can use towards graduation,” said Hemstreet. Students can also apply directly to foreign universities and programs while they are there, but will be responsible for going through the process of transcribing those credits and getting them validated by the transcript office to get those credits accredited. “Sometimes they can do that, sometimes they can’t, so it’s one of the big advantages about going through Bellevue College,” said Hemstreet.

Classes available depend on the program. For example, Green River College, a member of the Consortium, will be providing a program winter quarter 2014 that includes five weeks each in Australia and New Zealand. Classes offered will include Australian and New Zealand Life and Culture, the History of Australia and New Zealand and Biology of Australia and New Zealand.

A lot like how BC has the international student programs, there will be support staff and language services available for study abroad students. Understanding the native language is not required and is often, such as with Costa Rica, the underpinning lesson of the trip. Programs are made available as long as there is a suitable amount of applicants interested. Both Cape Town in South Africa and the Czech Republic will be made available if interest increases, and new programs are being suggested and implemented by quarter. Other colleges in the consortium often offer study abroad opportunities that other colleges do not. Green River College offers a Japan program and the Australia, and New Zealand program mentioned before.

On whether other students should take interest in studying abroad, Hemstreet said that, “if you’re not a shy person and not afraid to take a challenge you have to go.”