Study Abroad v. Student Exchange

Makana Skydiving in Taupo, New Zealand

“Learning abroad is the best way to experience a different culture, see a new place, and truly grow as a person,” said Makana Mattos, a senior UHM student who recently did an exchange at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

There are so many opportunities beyond attending college at your home institution. All you need to do is look and you will find that by taking the initiative to utilize school resources, you can travel to many parts of the world through study abroad programs. But when considering such a journey, many students stumble upon the question: “What’s the difference between the Study Abroad program and Student Exchange?”

“Each of the programs are good,” said Allison Yap, one of UH Manoa’s Study Abroad advisers. “If you are interested more in the mainland you’d go with national student exchange. MIX [Manoa International Exchange] and Study Abroad are a little bit harder to differentiate because we’re both going to international locations.”

Yap explained that the main difference is that at Study Abroad, the program is already registered for UH credits at UHM, (so you’re also eligible for UH financial aid.) Whereas, in MIX, your credits become transfer credits that have to be sent from the host institution back to UH Manoa and then looked over by the admissions office in order to decide what the course equivalencies will be.

“If you want a guarantee to know what the credits are ahead of time then Study Abroad’s a good way to go Also, in Study Abroad, we package everything together. Versus, for the Exchange, there’s usually not a group of people…and you’re responsible for finding your own housing, your own airfare, your own accommodations — you know, all that kinda stuff.”

At first glance, student exchange seems to be cheaper but this is because many of the costs are not readily included like the so-called “packaged” deals offered by Study Abroad. Nevertheless, these costs vary depending on your chosen destination and the length of your stay.

The GPA requirements for both programs are generally the same. They both accept students with a minimum 3.0, but exceptions can be made for those with a 2.5 or higher. However, grades earned overseas differ within the two programs. Students taking classes through the Study Abroad Center (SAC) receive UHM credit and the grades are calculated into your UHM GPA. On the other hand, MIX students choose classes at the overseas university and receive transfer credit that isn’t calculated into the UHM GPA.

According to Manoa’s International Exchange FAQ’s page, “Like MIX, the SAC has programs in Japan, China, Australia, and Europe. There are no SAC programs in Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand or Canada, but they do have programs in Argentina and Russia (MIX does not) and offer more programs in European countries.” And while MIX both sends students abroad and receives them, the SAC only sends UHM students abroad.

“I think it’s really important especially for students from Hawaii that might not have traveled to get an international experience, just to get off island, experience a different culture, see how the world works in another place,” Yap said. “Even if it’s an English- speaking country like London or Australia, it’s still different culturally so you’ll learn a lot about the culture that you’re in but you also learn a lot about yourself and your own cultural values.”

Makana Mattos, a senior UHM student who recently did an exchange at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, has had the opportunity to participate in both the International Exchange and Study Abroad. When asked which program she prefers, she answered that there are many qualities that are desirable in both programs. She said she enjoyed the experience the Study Abroad program created for students, but she also enjoyed the freedom and independence of creating her own experience through Mānoa International Exchange.

Makana then went on to say that, “Looking back on my experience, I think I prefer the Study Abroad program because they carefully designed their program so that the courses you take abroad actually translate into courses applicable to your degree.” She said that the Study Abroad program costs a little more, but part of that cost goes toward once-in-a-lifetime experiences. “For example, I was able to see Stonehenge, Bath, Oxford, have tea at Harrod’s, and watch a play in London (to name a few) because it was set up by the Study Abroad program.”

And as for Makana’s advice, she was more then eager to promote studying abroad opportunities. “Whether it’s through the Study Abroad program or through the Mānoa International Exchange program, it’s a must.”

“And if you think about it, when are you ever going to have the opportunity to travel or have this sort of experience when you’re older? It seems that we’re all in a rush to graduate, get a career, get married, then make our own families. But I think part of growing up is learning about yourself. Studying in a different country is definitely a way to do this,” said Makana. She also reassured that students should not ponder so much on money or their lack of, as tens of thousands of dollars in loans are taken out by our fellow citizens in the continental U.S, [as well as others around the world]. “We’re lucky that the University of Hawai‘i tuition is relatively cheap in comparison to other universities in the U.S., and that our study abroad programs reflect this low price,” said Mattos.

If you’re undecided about which program to pick here’s an easy way to decide: If your budget is tight, Makana suggests going through the Mānoa International Exchange Program. “It’s a bit cheaper because coordinating your trip abroad is your own responsibility, and any trips you plan will be of your own choosing.”

However, if you don’t want to go through the stress of planning a semester or a year abroad, Makana says to go with the Study Abroad program. “They make studying abroad pain-free. You know beforehand which courses will translate into courses at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Plus, part of what you initially pay goes toward unforgettable excursions. You will never regret studying abroad, but I can guarantee that you will regret it if you choose not to!”

To learn more about these opportunities, you can visit the Study Abroad Center in Moore 115, anytime from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or the UH MIX Office within the Queen Liliokalani Center, room 206, opened from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The office staff can provide you with brochures for upcoming semesters abroad, scholarship and financial aid sources and the encouragement you may need to pursue this quest. Also, more information about these programs can be found on their Facebook pages or searched within the official school website.

By Larissa Ishikawa

Student Exchange:

Phone (808) 956-4728

Study Abroad:

Phone 808-956-5143, 808-956-6958

Some links:

Summer in China?

Semester in Paris?

A year in Machida, Japan?