Lost in translation: DePaul students experience difficulties transferring study abroad grades

Studying abroad can be a rewarding experience, but many students at DePaul are frustrated with the time it takes to get their grades after returning home.

When students go abroad with a DePaul-sponsored program, their grades go through several steps before showing up on their transcripts.

According to Martha McGivern, the associate director for advising and marketing in DePaul’s study abroad office, this process typically wraps up three months after the program ends (though students that study overseas during the winter and spring quarters might face an additional delay because of summer vacation).

However, not all students have seen their grades in that timeframe. Erin Yarnall is a junior double majoring in journalism and history. She studied abroad in England during fall quarter of 2012, but just received her grades at the end of last month.

“I thought it would take a few months, understandably,” Yarnall said. “Britain has a weird grading system compared to the United States, but I did not expect it to take that long.”

McGivern understands that the transcript process can be taxing, but said it’s important for students to remember that this is one of the many challenges of studying abroad. Most universities overseas simply don’t process grades as quickly as DePaul does, she said.

Despite that, she doesn’t expect students to wait around forever for their grades.

“If we’re into five to six months, I certainly want to hear about it,” McGivern said. Despite her troubles, Yarnall did note that she never contacted study abroad because her lack of grades never created any pressing problems.

If students have concerns with non-DePaul programs, McGivern said her hands are tied. Those grades are treated as transfer credits and go directly to DePaul’s Office of Admissions for processing. She added that anyone who decides to go abroad with a non-DePaul program must be extremely independent because her office rarely communicates with those institutions.

“There are pros and cons to doing those non-DePaul programs,” she said.

Regardless of the program, however, McGivern said she is willing to help out any student facing obstacles because of the sometimes slow process. She said the study abroad office is happy to write letters for scholarships or extracurricular activities explaining why the student doesn’t have an updated transcript.

“That helps out most students,” she said.

Despite this reassurance, some students are still disgruntled over what they believe is a broken process.

Senior and political science major Meagan Lynch studied in London during winter and spring quarters last year, and her term concluded in May. Lynch said CEA, the third-party organization that partners with DePaul for its London program, sent her transcript to the university in August.

Lynch then proceeded to contact the study abroad office at the end of August because she needed the grades for a grant application. Much to her dismay, they never responded to her email, and she was forced to request a transcript from the university she attended overseas.

“I received that official transcript from the University of Westminster in London, England, sent regular mail, in four days,” she said.

McGivern said Lynch’s problem was the result of DePaul sending CEA grades to the wrong office, and once the problem was corrected, the office entered the information throughout September and October. Lynch eventually received three of her grades in the middle of last month. As of Nov. 6, however, she was still waiting on two more. She emailed the office once again to find out why that was the case, but had yet to receive a response.

“Based on my previous experiences with the study abroad office, I can’t say I expected this to be a positive experience,” she said, “but I never thought it would take this long to complete a simple data-entry task.”