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Nov. 8, 2011
By Brittany Keithley, media relations assistant
Attending Northwest Missouri State University doesn’t limit students to a specific location. With an exchange program reaching 160 universities in 40 countries, another country is as close as students want it to be.
Students who seize opportunities to study abroad can experience more than just an international education. They will develop cultural awareness while exploring the regions around them. Their time spent in another country will allow them to discover themselves and thrive in a new environment.
“There is not another time in your life where you’re going to get an opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture, do community service in another country and see what other peoples’ lives are like versus what our lives are like,” said Amanda Engelhart, a graduate assistant in Northwest’s study abroad office.
Engelhart works with interested students to help them choose where and when to start their journey abroad, based on activities they want to pursue. Beyond the classroom, students who study abroad travel, volunteer and even work at internships. After taking the initial leap to study abroad, students are encouraged to take advantage of any and every opportunities presented.
“Sometimes for a student’s major, it is really beneficial for him or her to go abroad,” Engelhart said. “Sometimes a student is just really interested in learning about a new culture.”
Last spring while studying in Costa Rica, Brandon Clark participated in a week-long community service trip in a rural Costa Rican community. A group of eight students from his study abroad program rode six hours by bus to the southern part of the country to volunteer for La Amistad Association of Producers (ASOPROLA). There, they worked with organic crops, built trails for future visitors, visited with community members and spent time with the local children.
“It was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience for me because, although the town was fairly impoverished, they pooled all their resources together to help each other out when needed,” said Clark, a senior from Odessa who is a double major in Spanish and organizational communication. “Almost every resident in the town was involved in some way with ASOPROLA and the organic coffee farm. Being able to help out a local community and see how appreciative they were to have students interested in supporting their cause was definitely one of my favorite experiences of my study abroad trip.”
Allison Babb, a junior child and family studies major from La Vista, Neb., traveled to Welkom, South Africa, where she worked in an orphanage for Restoring Hope International. She attended Dunamis Christian School in Welkom to be a counselor and tutor in a sixth grade classroom.
“Every Monday when we would gather all grades together for assembly, you would see those kids just smiling and happy not only to see me but happy to be in school,” Babb said. “This really opened my eyes to the nations around me.”
Babb met with a social work organization that worked with a township area called Hani Park, which was known as unsafe and lacking a good home life. With the help of a translator she was able to understand how social work in Africa varies from America.
“I was able to sit in on the yearly meeting the organization had with these families who are caring for orphans,” Babb said. “They were asking the children many questions to make sure they were being treated well, fed and taken care of. Then they asked the caretaker if the kids are doing well living there. Most of the time their grandmothers would become their caretaker if the parents had passed, didn’t want the children or disappeared.”
Babb added, “My trip was two months long and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned a lot about myself and also a lot about what I really want to do with my child and family studies major. I love children and love finding them that perfect family.”
Clark’s and Babb’s experiences offered them a new perspective when they returned to the states and classes at Northwest.
“Each student had an amazing opportunity to engage in helping the community around them, which in turn led to more cultural awareness of the country they were studying in,” Engelhart said.
Students interested in the study abroad program should start their inquiry at least one trimester before they intending to study abroad. The deadline to register for a study abroad program during the summer 2012 trimester is March 10, 2012. The deadline to register for a study abroad program during the fall 2012 trimester with the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) is Jan. 28, 2012.
When starting the search for the right program, students should consider universities that have the right classes, the size of the host city, travel opportunities and how their personality may fit with the culture. The study abroad office can then help place interested students at a university where they will thrive. The study abroad office encourages students not to ask themselves whether to study abroad, but ask when and where they could go, and how they may use the experience to succeed after college.
For more information about studying abroad, contact the study abroad office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 660.562.1367 to make an appointment.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
email@example.com | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900
Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468