Letter: Study abroad programs should be optional, not mandatory

I am an American student, originally from Iraq.

I was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq until my family and I escaped to Syria, hoping that this would be a short-term solution for safety while we applied for residence in the United States.

However, the process took three years, and we were in Syria until our immigration to the United States was accepted.

I have lived in America since 2007.

I am a junior at SDSU and I am majoring in social work. 

I chose my major for many reasons and one of my them was because of my experience as an immigrant.

In the College of Health and Human Services there are requirements that students need to complete in order to graduate.

One of the requirements is to study abroad. However, other college departments such as Business Administration and Engineering are not required to study abroad.

I want to travel the world and see every beautiful place there is.

However, college students are already in so much debt because of school expenses.

Tuition, rent, books, grocieries and gas becomes expensive and does not leave much pocket money for the student.

With the little money that is left, students find it difficult to pay for studying abroad.

From Europe, all the way to our neighboring location Tijuana, there are many places that would be great study abroad locations for students.

Study abroad sounds like a great idea, and I would just like to pack my bags and go to my destination, but I cannot.

I do not have the money to see another country for even a few days, which is cheaper than studying for a semester.

Some students have the capability to pay the fees because they have the money, but other students can barely afford their daily expenses.

In today’s economy many households struggle with financial problems.

Some students stay or return to their parents’ homes to save money for their future. I live with my single mother in low-income housing.

For us it is a struggle paying the rent and having the money for other costs.

I am unable to pay to visit another country.

I have already been in two international countries, however, I am still required to study abroad.

Also, the study abroad locations themselves have their expenses.

According to the study abroad website, if the student would go to Paris, it would cost about $1,845 for a nine day trip, not including the $2,000 airline ticket.

Some meals and health insurance would not be included in the package.

On the other hand, going to Tijuana is about $875 and a person can drive.

However, unlike Paris where there is activities and trips involved, students who go to Tijuana have to do manual labor such as build houses in unsanitary areas.

Basically, a student has to choose between paying certain amount of money or doing certain amount of physical work.

A student also has the option of applying for scholarships.

However, if you consider the number of students that apply for the limited number of scholarships, only a few can receive it.

I have applied to multiple scholarships and have discussed why I need the money and what it would be used for.

The result was nothing and I did not get any scholarships. 

Six of my friends also applied and only one received a scholarship.

Finding a job is another challenge because there are so many of students and so few openings.

Students receive minimum wage which is not enough compared to the amount of money spent.

A student has to go to school, work and have their own personal life and this can be a lot to handle for young adults.

I understand that this is the time for us to grow and learn how to be adults, but being an adult has a price tag.

We want an education to have the money to support us, but the study abroad is an extra thing that is not necessary.

SDSU should and needs to eliminate the study abroad requirement and make it optional for the students to decide.

Study abroad can be useful for students to gain new experiences, and if the prices were more accommodating then the number of students who study abroad would increase.

Students can see other environments, cultures and thus gain a wider sense of the world.

As a result, SDSU students can bring back the knowledge they have gained to the country and increase the success of students.

The other choice includes not studying abroad and rather attending classes and having assignments and volunteer hours to complete.

This is not fair because while some students who choose to study abroad to have fun, few students have to do other course work.

This sounds as if a student does not have money and they are in a sense being punished by doing extra assignments.

Having an alternative is good, but it is not fair for some students who have families and jobs that they cannot take breaks from.

The study abroad programs should either be required for all students at SDSU or not at all and provide accommodation.

Studying abroad is a good experience but this should be an option for students, not mandatory.

The reality is not every one can study abroad for many reasons, financial issues being one of the top.

However, if students and staff work together to create more affordable options then it may lead to mutual benefits.

-Amanda Yousif