Six years ago, Brian Connery decided that as a professor of Irish Literature, he wanted to take a group of students to Ireland. After planning his first study abroad trip for students, he became deeply rooted in the study abroad community at Oakland University.
He is currently serving a one-year term as the director of the Study Abroad office.
“I organized a trip to Ireland and it was a lot of work and really difficult, but once we got there it was really worth it,” Connery said. “The payoff was just huge.”
At the time of Connery’s first Ireland study abroad trip, Margaret Pigott ran OU’s study abroad program in the writing and rhetoric department. Each summer, Pigott had organized a student trip to Oxford University in England.
Five years ago, she decided to no longer run this trip and offered it up to Connery, who has taken students to Oxford each summer since.
Currently, OU offers programs to 18 different countries on five different continents. AHA International, a national organization dedicated to creating student programs for studying abroad, sponsors twelve of these trips.
“Students can find programs that I think really suit them,” Connery said. “We’ve got some programs that are a little bit specialized. For example, Vienna is great for musicians; the program includes music lessons in a conservatory. The Australia programs are sort of for everybody. They’re a little less structured. At Australia National University, you can take any of their courses. You can find courses that fit your program and your interests. That’s true of New Zealand as well.”
As part of his plan to get students more involved, he also hopes to address common study abroad concerns.
A primary concern that students have is the cost of a study abroad experience. While he acknowledges that studying abroad is not cheap, he said it’s worth the money.
“I’ve never heard somebody come back and say it wasn’t worth it,” Connery said. “Yes, it’s a large sum of money but the value of the experience exceeds the money spent.”
Additionally, he said by saving money at OU, students might be able to justify the study abroad experience financially.
“Students are saving a lot in a way by going to OU,” he said. “Study abroad is what you should spend it on.”
Connery also mentioned that scholarships are offered both through OU and through AHA, specifically for programs in Vienna and Italy. Students who have general tuition scholarships may be able to apply that money to tuition in a study abroad program as well.
“You’ve got a program, you’ve got a place to stay, for all of the programs there’s a site director who’s there not really as a parent, but as a go-to person. All of the sites themselves are safe and secure,” he said.
Students can get information on regular semester programs and summer programs at
Summer programs run from three-and-a-half weeks to five weeks. Semester programs last 13 – 15 weeks.