SPSCC gives students opportunities to study abroad

South Puget Sound Community College’s Study Abroad program allows students to transfer for a period of time to a college or university in a foreign country. To begin the process of going abroad, students arrange an appointment with an advisor in the Study Abroad office Room 292 in Building 21. The advisor will work with students to help them travel to where they want to go and on the budget they have available. Students should schedule an appointment as early as possible in order to have time to work out all the details of their trip.

Students who Study Abroad earn credits toward their degree while seeing the world, experiencing diverse cultures, and learning about themselves.

According to Sherrie Buendel, SPSCC’s Study Abroad program director, many students tell her that studying abroad was a truly life changing experience.

“They are so much more confident when they get back,” she said, “to do what they want to do and be who they want to be.”

Patrick Chapman, anthropology professor and organizer of the yearly four week study program in Scotland, said, “Being overseas helps you expand your horizons, helps you see the world in a different light, and better understand your place in the world.”

Chapman and history professor Nicholas Alforde have facilitated the Scotland trip in the past. Both passionately express how important studying abroad is and how it dramatically changes the students who go.

According to both Chapman and Alforde, what Study Abroad students learn about themselves is much more pertinent than anything they learn in their courses.

Study Abroad students should expect complete cultural immersion. Unlike being a tourist, a Study Abroad student is temporarily a member of the community they are visiting.

Chapman said that doing the daily things, going grocery shopping or doing laundry, as well as interacting with the other students in the college are important to fully experience a foreign country as a student. These daily-routine tasks make students feel less like visitors and more like a part of their surroundings.

“There’s a lot of conviviality,” Alforde said, “a lot of brother and sisterhood amongst the groups.”

Micah Killian, who participated in the 10-week Japan program in 2011, had an unfortunate shared living experience, however. “For me, being housed with five other guys was probably the worst part of the experience,” Killian, who did not share his roommates’ taste for parties, said.

“We had a couple of noise complaints while we were there, which was embarrassing for the teacher and the school that hosted us.” Despite this, Killian maintains that the overall experience was great and he has no regrets in going.

Students can expect to pay for their tuition, the program, and travel expenses. These expenses can be covered by financial aid, which applies towards tuition of courses students have not yet taken that are required for their degree or program. There are also scholarships, whose details are located on the Study Abroad page of SPSCC’s website, that pay specifically for studying abroad. As a last resort, students sometimes take out a small Stafford loan.

Students can discuss all of these options with the Study Abroad advisor.

According to Buendel, students are usually able to save enough if they structure and maintain a budget.

Killian knows the importance of bringing enough funds on a Study Abroad trip. He received several scholarships and so he was free to take full advantage of his experience, whereas others in his group did not bring enough money to do everything they wanted to.

Alforde jokingly said that a Study Abroad experience, especially one of his trips to Scotland, is “worth every pence.”

Steps to Stepping Abroad:

  1. Qualify. Meet a 2.5 GPA, be 18 years of age (or 17 with parental permission), get two letters of recommendation, complete 12 college credits at SPSCC.
  2. Apply as soon as possible. Applications are available through the Study Abroad Advisor in room 292A of Building 21. Also be sure to apply for scholarships and financial aid.
  3. Plan for your trip in advance. You will need a passport, and funds to pay for the program, travel, and your tuition. Be sure to get everything set here at home for your absence.


  • Individual trips:
    • Spain- Winter Quarter 2012
    • England- Fall Quarter 2012
    • Cape Town, South Africa- Fall Quarter 2013
    • Australia/New Zealand- Every Winter Quarter
    • Japan- Every Fall Quarter
    • Mexico- Semesters begin in January and August
  • Faculty-Led Trips:
    • New Zealand- Winter Quarter 2012
    • Glasgow, Scotland- Summer Quarter 2012