A SMAD student's guide to studying abroad/away

Media Arts and Design

By Meirra McChristian, staff writer

Before navigating the globe as part of study abroad/away programs, students must do some homework and scope out the program that’s a best fit for them.

And for students who have participated in recent programs, many have raved about their experiences.

Kevin Gorman, a Digital Video & Cinema concentration student, for instance, participated in last summer’s JMU in LA program and said his time there was meaningful in many ways.

“I found that studying abroad gave me the opportunity to live in another part of the country with a safety net,” Gorman said. “I was able to professionally follow my passion while having the support from my peers and professors at JMU.”

Before making those meaningful connections — with the place and its people — and even before officially committing to the trip, here’s what students need to know about each of the SMAD-centric programs offered over the next few semesters: 

Goin’ Hollywood: Lights, Camera, Action

Dr. Tale Mitchell runs the LA program, and said she makes sure her students exhibit maturity but also that they know they can come to her with any concerns throughout the trip.

“I’m there to support them and they felt comfortable coming and talking to me. And that’s probably the biggest is just knowing that they have support from the director and they’re not just out there on their own but they also have to be open to being a part of … a family,” said Mitchell, who has been teaching in SMAD since 2014.

Yousra Errami, a Journalism concentration student who spent last summer in the LA program, said she encountered LA head-on and even though it wasn’t in another country, the culture shock still hit hard. But she said there were so many fun LA-centric activities.

“We all went to a Dodgers game and it was such an LA experience. Everyone was decked out in blue and white, and we all had such a great time together,” Errami said. “Events like these really exposed us to LA life and culture and helped us feel more comfortable there, and I’m glad we all had each other to experience it all with.”

JMU in LA application deadline (Summer 2023): Oct. 15

  • An interview with program director Dr. Talé Mitchell is required, plus an essay, resumé, unofficial JMU transcript and academic references 
  • Supplemental program fee: $2,500

London Calling

Director  Dr. Amy Paugh for the London study abroad program said students can learn a variety of  subjects in study abroad programs. And she said many students take classes that they wouldn't have experienced on campus.

“Studying abroad can really be a life-changing experience so just getting out of your comfort zone, getting to a new place like that,” Paugh said. “London is huge … you’re going to meet so many different people and so just kind of broadening one’s perspective that’s just kind of one thing that students get to take away.”

Avery Goodstine, a SMAD journalism concentration student who attended the semester in the London Program in the Fall 2021, said the semester in the UK had a significant impact on her.

“I think the London program is particularly beneficial for SMAD students because a lot of SMAD courses are offered as well as the opportunity to do a lot of SMAD courses are offered, as well as an opportunity to do a media-focused internship," she said. "London is also one of the largest media hubs in the world, so it certainly is the place to be for SMAD students.”

London application deadline (Summer 2023, Fall 2023 or Spring 2024): Nov. 1 

  • Requires an essay, letter of recommendation and unofficial JMU transcript 
  • Must pay $500 deposit by Dec. 1 
  • Supplemental program fee: $5,500

Luck of the Irish

Shelly Hokanson, the Ireland program director who has been a SMAD professor for 12 years, first co-directed Ireland in 2018. Hokanson said studying abroad can include everyone in any major.

“A personal benefit would be the fact that a study abroad is going to put you in a long place for an extended amount of time,” Hokanson said. “Probably the biggest personal benefit is embedding yourself into the culture as opposed to observing it.”

As students gain maturity from studying abroad, part of that is feeling like they’ve become a resident in a new area.

Laith Mekouar, a Digital Video & Cinema concentration student, went on the Ireland study abroad trip and gained long-lasting friendships with Irish citizens he met. He also said he had a long conversation with an Irish film director about her professional experiences and the process of releasing a feature film.

“After attending the world premiere of the film ‘Joyride,’ I was able to attend the opening gala where I met the director and actors of this film,” Mekouar said. “I don’t think I ever would’ve had the opportunity to rub elbows with such successful people at my age, so getting life and career advice from such an accomplished director was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Ireland application deadline for Summer 2023: Nov. 1

  • Study abroad online application (with a $40 fee), short essay, resumé, and interview with the program director might be required

That’s amore in Italy

Caroline Shelly, a Creative Advertising concentration student who participated in the 2022 Urbino program, said living in another country can affect one’s day-to-day life.

“There is nothing like traveling and exploring different cultures from your own. But I think what students forget to realize is that when you study abroad you are no longer a visitor, vacationing in a different part of the world, you become a resident,” Shelly said. “You are truly living there and experiencing the culture and you see how it impacts you each day.”

Prof. Shaun Wright and Prof. David Wang will now be overseeing the study abroad program for Urbino, Italy.

Urbino, Italy, application deadline for Summer 2023: Nov. 1

  • Must be a sophomore, junior or senior 
  • Study abroad online application (with a $40 fee) and short essay

Other factors to keep in mind: 

  • The Center for Global Engagement on Madison Hall’s second floor has more information about study abroad and study away programs.
  • Airfare is not covered in the program costs.
  • Scholarships for study abroad programs, which can be found through the Center for Global Engagement, are often funded by many alumni who participated in study abroad/away programs. 

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Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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