Illustration by Giulio Bonasera

Since Penn State lifted the restrictions on international travel that were put in place at the start of the pandemic, Smeal students are beginning to embrace the opportunity to study abroad again.

According to Jeffery Sharp, Smeal’s recently retired associate dean for international programs, national or regional travel restrictions in host countries reduced students’ choice of program locations during Spring 2022. However, he expects a return to pre-pandemic rules and travels in the not-too-distant future. 

“International experiences complement our students’ residential study by broadening perspectives, generating greater cultural curiosity, enriching interaction and communication, and developing a more global vision,” Sharp says. “There’s been a high level of interest for future semesters, and I am confident we will return to pre-pandemic participation in the next year.”

While Smeal’s strategic plan calls for an increase in the number of Smeal students who study abroad, Sharp says that for many students, the additional cost places the experience beyond their means. Program costs typically range from $2,000 to $14,000 on top of standard semester tuition, flights, meals, and other personal/travel expenses. 

“Students are under considerable financial pressure,” he says. “We often hear that they would like to study abroad but simply cannot afford to do so. Scholarships and other grants can be true difference makers.”

Donors like Tony and Marta Buzzelli and Stuart and Michele Rothstein understand the competitive advantages for students who study abroad. Both couples created new study abroad scholarships during the “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence” fundraising campaign. 

For the Buzzellis, whose 2021 scholarship commitment will support Smeal accounting students who study abroad, it comes down to helping students push their boundaries and expand their world view.

“When you travel to another country, you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You start to understand that diversity is more than just ethnicity. That instills a sense of curiosity and empathy in people that often leads to better creativity and collaboration,” Tony Buzzelli says.

“Those are valuable skills for young people as they embark on their professional careers, and Marta and I are thrilled to be able to give this opportunity to students who might not otherwise go abroad.”

The Rothsteins say that every time they travel as a family outside of the United States, it gives them a meaningful perspective, and they want Smeal students to have a similar experience. 

“Working at a global investment firm, I see how important it is for people to understand how the world fits together. Spending time abroad allows people to gain a heightened level of maturity and independence and to develop resilience,” Stuart Rothstein says. 

“There are many Penn State students who are the first generation in their families to attend college. Michele and I wanted to make sure these students have as robust a collegiate experience as possible.” 

The Rothsteins’ scholarship, which was endowed in 2020, was awarded for the first time in Spring 2022. The recipient, a fifth-year Master of Accounting student, studied business, economics, and international relations in Vienna, Austria. This fall, a student pursuing a management degree with an international business minor will attend Arcadia: London Internship Program — a program that includes a significant integrated international internship experience.

“Studying abroad can be a wonderfully enriching experience,” Sharp says. “Smeal’s Office of International Programs has dedicated advisors to assist students in aligning program types, locations, and costs with their personal and academic goals. I only wish more students had the resources to take advantage of the opportunity.”

–Anne Louise Cropp

Spring 2022 study abroad facts