Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Program flaws threaten study abroad

"Study abroad is a rewarding, life-transforming experience that compliments any academic program!" This inspirational message is found on the homepage for study abroad at UW-Madison. With more than 100 different study abroad programs, it seems as though students have an array of choices when deciding to leave for a semester. However, some Madison programs have lacked in their organizational efforts, which could ultimately result in the cancellation of their programs for the spring semester.

One program going down this depressing path is the Spain program, offering students the chance to study in places all over the country. Applications for the program were due by Oct. 7, plenty of time for advisors to review them and inform the students on their admittance. However, applications were not even reviewed until the week of Nov. 1, when students finally found out if they are able to go. During the time between, students were not given any information on flights or visas, two salient issues that take time before departure. The Spain program, which does not review any applications early, does not inform students on any of this information until they are accepted. This policy seems to make sense, why inform the student before they are allowed into the program? But this policy needs time, time for students to arrange flights and time for students to obtain their visas. A more appropriate acceptance time would have been back in October so students were given enough time to check with their local embassy and check for flights.

For the massive amount of students who are originally from surrounding Midwestern states including Minnesota, Colorado and Illinois just to name a few, the local embassy to visit in order to get a student visa is in Chicago. Because the Chicago embassy takes in so many surrounding states, the wait time for students is at least eight weeks. In addition, like most embassies, students must apply for their visa in person. During the first week in November, the earliest appointment for the Spanish embassy to receive a visa was the last week in December. Now let's do the math; acceptance into the Sevilla program is the week of Nov. 1. The program leaves for Spain on Jan. 8. The first available appointment to get the actual visa is not until the last week in December with a four to eight week waiting period. Does anyone see a problem here? For all of the UW-Madison students, it would be impossible to get a visa before the trip leaves.

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So what are the program directors doing to fix the problem? Well, they have three options to choose from. One, they can delay the program for the UW students until February when the visas are available. However this doesn't look like a very promising solution. Having to play catch up by a month doesn't seem plausible for this type of situation. Second, the consulate can approve the director to pick up all of the student visas in enough time for departure. But the directors weren't approved, so that option doesn't work either. And the last option, well that is to cancel the program for the UW students. As of now, they are advising the accepted students to sign up for classes at Madison for the spring semester. Based on these three options, it seems as though the last one is holding the most weight.

Despite the current situation, the 2006 Spain program has posted a link on the study abroad website stating "at this time we have no plans to cancel or suspend any of our programs to Spain due to the visa issue." They continue to say that they are keeping close contact with their program partners and the U.S. legislatures and organizations for assistance with the program.

The lack of organization and information from this program has taken a serious toll on the future of it. Students now must wait patiently to see if their plans to study abroad are intact, or if it has been taken under. Maybe next semester, other abroad programs will learn from the numerous mistakes that this Spain program has made in the past two months. And a note for other students interested in studying abroad: stay on top of everything from flights to visas — because who is to say that your program will do it for you.

Estie Kruglak ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in communication arts.

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