I’ve worked professionally in study abroad for 5 years, and as student worker for 2. I’ve personally studied abroad twice and have used that experience to assist inbound and outbound study abroad students. I have had the opportunity to coordinate not only the American Semester Program for international students, but outbound programs for MSU students studying in places like the Netherlands, Spain, Luxembourg …and, well, many other countries. I’ve also been super fortunate to coordinate Michigan State’s Freshman Seminar Abroad programs four times: once to Japan, once to Iceland and twice to New Zealand. I got hands on experience with budgets (…fun) and led the programs on-site, in-country.
Why is study abroad important?
Study abroad is one of those surreal experiences I’ve found difficult to put into words. When I got home from studying in Spain I found it terribly difficult to articulate what I experienced, because most of my friends and family had not traveled outside of the US. And if they did, it was on a short vacation. While most students read that inability to articulate study abroad to be an issue, I find it rather eye-opening … and more of a learning experience. To me, that loss for words emphasized the changed that happened within me. I experienced something so few get to experience, and I myself had to first take the time to understand what I lived through before ever being able to illustrate what happened.
The most mundane things, like walking to class or going to the grocery store, can even be difficult to articulate. But with time, I learned how to talk about my time abroad.
What did study abroad teach you that university didn’t?
Life isn’t easy. It’s very hard. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, or that it’s not enjoyable, it just means that working for what you want is hard, but that the rewards are that much more enjoyable due to its difficulty. School didn’t teach me how to buy a house or pay off a car loan. Studying abroad didn’t either, but it did teach me that I need to figure it out. I need to be independent and resourceful.
How do you use all of the above to help students?
It probably sounds super obvious from what I’ve written, but I’m pretty realistic about study abroad and anything relating to school. Like I’ve mentioned, travel, school and even life are difficult. I like to think I’m in tune with student needs, and can grasp fears and anxieties and even frustrations with the entire academic process. I enjoyed college, but I also had so many moments of frustrations, and hope my struggles help me to connect on a human level with students. I’d rather be a help to a student for more than just academics and I think I, too, learn from that.
Interested in learning more about our programs and exchanges? Take a look at our website, americansemester.msu.edu, where you can find a variety of resources.