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by Natalie Rooks

HPU has 264 exchange and study abroad students from 15 countries, and about 3,000 international students. HPU, however, also offers the opportunity for HPU students to study abroad and have an exciting experience of learning in a new culture. Imagine being a student for example in Sweden, Mexico, Australia, Slovenia, Thailand, or Japan! You too can have the opportunity to study for a semester at one of the 40 universities in 16 different countries. The decision to study abroad was easy for me, but preparing for the semester was a lengthy process.

In January, after meeting with Dr. Jon Davidann, director of International Exchange and Study Abroad Programs, I decided to study abroad in Vienna, Austria, the next fall semester. During the spring semester I was accepted to FH-Wien, HPU’s partner school in Vienna, and after that I registered for my HPU classes for the upcoming fall semester. As an exchange student, I receive credits for my HPU degree from classes I take abroad, and I pay HPU tuition without any other fees or program costs. In addition, I was able to keep my financial aid package.

It took me a few months to get things in order with HPU before I could apply for my visa. Americans can stay in Austria without a visa for three months, but need an entry permit to live and study for up to six months. Obtaining the visa was not hard, but it was stressful and time consuming because there were several documents I either needed to have or fill in, or both—a completed and signed application form, two passport size photographs, passport, letter of admission from my Austrian school, proof of lodging and tuition paid for in advance, medical insurance, proof of sufficient funds for the semester, letter of financial responsibility, and a copy of my round trip ticket. And because I was living in Hawai‘i, I had to send all these documents to the Los Angeles Consulate General.

The most stressful part of the visa process was finding housing. I was able to obtain student housing through a private company, but the process was not easy. Because of different time zones, Hawai‘i was 12 hours behind Austria, so I had to deal with time and language delays in communication. In addition, I had to wire transfer a payment to cover six months’ rent in Euros. Because of the different currencies, I had to take in consideration the exchange rate between U.S. dollars and Euros. When I transferred the money to pay my rent in full, Bank of Hawai‘i’s exchange rate was at $1.62 for 1€. Fortunately the exchange rate didn’t keep rising, but every day I would check it to see when I could get the most for my money. Today, with the volatile economy, the exchange rate is $1.29 for 1€, but it is constantly changing and I have to be aware of that every day.

When I finally received my visa at the beginning of August, everything was in order. Planning to go abroad took time and patience, but I can tell you it is completely worth it. HPU has excellent exchange programs with the same price tag as spending a semester at HPU. Actually, going abroad can be cheaper than living in Hawai‘i! The best part, however, is the opportunity to learn in a different culture, meet people from around the world, learn a foreign language, and expand your horizons.

If you are interested in studying abroad, contact Dr. Jon Davidann at jdavidann@hpu.edu or call 544-0811, or click on Study Abroad Programs under Academics tab at HPU Web site.

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