Few opportunities in college, if any, are more impactful than studying abroad. With satellite campuses in Rome and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Loyola has a strong reputation for study abroad opportunities. Despite this, some students feel Loyola can be passive when it comes to dealing with some of the important logistical tasks that are a part of the study abroad process at the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC).
In the 2018-19 academic year, roughly 50 percent of Loyola undergraduates who studied abroad did so at the JFRC, according to Loyola’s undergraduate study abroad participation annual report. To be eligible to study at the JFRC, one must obtain an international study visa, financial aid forms and a letter of recommendation — among other things. Many students said they had little help from Loyola in achieving these things.
“The process was very stressful,” said junior Dylan Boehm. “To have to get all your documents together for the visa with little help from anyone at Loyola was a pain — they don’t tell you anything.”
In order to obtain an international study visa, one must provide bank statements, insurance information, various application forms and flight itineraries. Students are required to actually book a flight before they can begin the visa process. This lengthy process is completely up to students to figure out.
“I felt like I was on my own,” said Daniel Velarde, a sophomore finance major and current JFRC student. “They told me what to do, but didn’t help out too much when it came to actually getting it done.”
There was a 9.6 percent rise in study abroad participation in the past year, according to the study abroad participation annual report. With limited spots and an increase in demand for the JFRC, many students find themselves on the waitlist. Coming in off the waitlist often leaves students with little time to fulfill visa and financial aid requirements.
“When you get off the waitlist, they don’t tell you about the group flight, or the group visa, or the orientation meetings and all that stuff,” Boehm said. “You just kinda go in blind.”
Rather than make students aware of the visa process once they get into the program, Loyola should layout the entire process during the application period. Currently, there’s no mention of international visas anywhere on Loyola’s study abroad webpage. This contrasts other university study abroad webpages.
Take Georgetown University, for example. As a fellow Jesuit university, they are ranked 19th in university study abroad programs, according to U.S. News and World Report. Their study abroad webpage lays out all necessary steps and deadlines for international visas and pre-departure orientations. Similarly, the University of Illinois makes students aware of all necessary steps for obtaining a student visa on their study abroad webpage with links to all required forms.
“You might as well make the process available to students as early as possible, and keep students in the loop regardless of whether they just applied or are on the waitlist,” Boehm said. “Otherwise, you feel kinda stuck in the middle.”
Loyola’s Study Abroad Office didn’t respond to request comment by time of publication.
The opportunity to explore and learn new things in different ways is what college is all about. There is no better way to do this than study abroad. Why not make the process easier for all involved?