Education, authenticity, affordability. Those are the three tenants of Oklahoma Study Abroad, said program founder and director Christian Alyea, who spoke Oct. 23 to a group of journalism students about the three upcoming study-abroad opportunities OCCC students have in the next year.
Alyea said he started Oklahoma Study Abroad in 2009, after having spent years studying in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. He traveled there first through a high school study-abroad program.
Alyea found the experience so enriching that he mastered the Slavic language and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in Bratislava.
Upon returning to the States, he began looking into ways to introduce his passion for travel to more students in Oklahoma.
Alyea cited the need to reach students as one of his main influences. He also noted the need to introduce college students to the local culture, unlike the expensive and generic programs that many universities offer.
Now, Alyea said, he and his team work with a handful of schools in the state to provide all students with the opportunity to explore the world.
Oklahoma Study Abroad has a unique approach to traveling as a student. His goal is to provide what he calls “full cultural immersion” in the sights, sounds and experiences of the places his travelers will visit.
Students who take a trip with Oklahoma Study Abroad see the countries they visit through the eyes of the locals. They take public transportation instead of charter buses, stay in hostels instead of five-star hotels, and dine at local eateries that serve good meals rather than upscale restaurants.
“We want to reach the majority,” Alyea said with regards to the goal of the program, and strives to provide the biggest bang for a student’s buck.
Affordability is one of the traits that makes Oklahoma Study Abroad unique. A trip to Costa Rica in May will cost a student $1,800 and include the opportunity to study Beginning or Intermediate Spanish.
During spring break in March, a tour of London will run $2,200. Humanities credit in the Theater of London or the London of Dickens will be offered.
Spending part of July in five countries in Eastern Europe will cost $2,600. Alyea said the college course offerings for that trip have yet to be determined. The cost of college tuition is not included in the base price. Travelers who want to take the trip, but don’t need college credit, are required to sign up for one college hour of audit status to meet the student requirement.
All of the trips are paid for in increments, with Dec. 14 as the deadline for the first payment of $400. This makes the strain on a student’s wallet a little easier.
Federal financial aid like Pell Grants can be used to pay for part of the trip, Alyea said. A few partial scholarships are available through the OCCC Foundation, because each trip includes college credit and serves as an educationally enriching course.
OCCC President Paul Sechrist has established a scholarship fund to assist students with the cost of international travel with an educational objective, he said.
“This is a new generation of study abroad,” Alyea said. He said he hopes the program and the opportunities it affords students will provide an accessible, authentic experiences for everyone.
For more information, visit www.oklahomastudyabroad.com.