GW pushing study abroad for minorities

Minority students are significantly less likely than their white counterparts to study abroad, according to data by the Office for Study Abroad.

Three-fourths of GW students who studied abroad during the 2009-2010 school year were white, while 6.6 percent were Latino and 6.1 percent were black, according to data from the study abroad office.

The disparity between white and non-white students studying abroad prompted the Office for Study Abroad to reach out to non-white students through the Multicultural Student Services Center, in an effort to combat financial and cultural obstacles students face when leaving the country.

“We’ve had information sessions about study abroad, demystifying the negative viewpoints about study abroad that there’s no money or scholarships,” said Eric Gutierrez, a student services coordinator at the MSSC. “There are financial resources out there for students.”

Robert Hallworth, the director of the Office for Study Abroad, said GW’s policies for tuition and financial assistance help make going abroad more affordable for all students.

“The home tuition policy allows students to apply their loans and scholarship funds to study abroad and this makes a semester abroad roughly equivalent to a semester on campus,” Hallworth said. “In addition, the Office for Study Abroad offers approximately $200,000 in study abroad scholarships each year.”

Gutierrez said the study abroad office has solicited help from the MSSC because its advice resonates better with non-white students.

“The reason why the study abroad office and our office are working together is because students of color sometimes feel more comfortable when they see someone who looks like them speak about the resources,” Gutierrez said.

George Rice, the associate director of the MSSC, said many non-white students also may not consider leaving the country because they would be the first generation of their family to study abroad.

“Some students of color just don’t feel inclined to do it because some people don’t like change or things that are different. Some people just don’t want to go out of their comfort zone,” Rice said.

Rice added the cultural benefits of studying abroad could be especially valuable to non-white students.

“I feel like students of color should do it because it helps them understand who they are and have an appreciation for the differences that exist,” Rice said.

The Institute for International Education reported in November that blacks and Latinos are vastly underrepresented among study abroad participants nationwide.

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