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Want to study abroad? Here's your guide

January 9, 2020
The outside of the Office of Study Abroad is pictured on Oct. 25, 2017 at the International Center.
The outside of the Office of Study Abroad is pictured on Oct. 25, 2017 at the International Center. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Michigan State offers 275 study abroad programs in 60 different countries and on every continent, providing all MSU students with the opportunity to supplement their college experience by studying, researching or interning abroad.

Education abroad programs are offered through every undergraduate college, along with opportunities for students pursuing professional degrees and students in the Honors College.

For example, students are able to go to Deakin University in Australia in a direct-enroll program through the College of Social Science, Lyman Briggs and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, or the Technical University in Denmark, in an exchange program through the College of Engineering. 

There are also internships abroad in Canada sponsored the College of Arts and Letters, James Madison, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the College of Social Science, and first-year seminars in Germany sponsored by the Office of Education Abroad. 

Students have the additional option to do an independent study in countries like Guatemala through the College of Osteopathic Medicine and India through the College of Human Medicine.

Study abroad resources

MSU offers students different resources to plan, apply, and finance their study abroad trip through the Office of Education Abroad and their website.

All applications are online and can be found through the program search feature, Madeleine Fazio, peer advisor at the Office of Education Abroad, said. 

“You can see different aspects of the program such as the dates that it goes on ... cost, which is obviously really important, description of the program and things like that,” she said.

Study abroad programs vary in length and popularity. Some programs are only two weeks during university breaks, while others run a full semester or even a full academic year. 

Europe is the most popular destination for students studying abroad, Fazio said.

MSU offers financial assistance for students applying to study abroad through scholarships and other financial aid.

“We have scholarships through the Office of Education Abroad that students can apply for,” Fazio said. “Typically, it’s one essay or so and you can be considered for any scholarships offered through us. There’s also scholarships offered through the colleges, so based on whatever college a student is in.”

Scholarships are an important factor in many students’ ability to afford education abroad.

“If I didn’t get the scholarships, I don’t know if I would’ve gone,” journalism senior Katherine White said. “I think it was still a good opportunity to go and I think everyone should go, but definitely (pursue) the scholarships. MSU has a lot of options to get those scholarships, so that definitely helped in my decision.”

White studied in Paris and Rome during the summer of 2018 through the sports journalism program.

In addition, students are also able to get financial assistance with flights through STA Representatives who are also located at the Office of Education Abroad.

“(STA is) a travel agency devoted to students throughout the U.S.,” Fazio said. “They work in our office once a week. They have an agent here that can help take student appointments or walk-ins, and they help with booking flights for students, booking excursions for students beyond their travels. They offer raffles for discounts on flights and things like that.”

With these resources, more students are able to take advantage of the relationships built through studying abroad, Fazio said.

“Globalizing your perspective, making relationships with people overseas that you can really keep,” she said. “If you’re interested in a job abroad after graduating, you can really build those relationships and networks abroad, that can really help as well.”

Student experiences

Studying abroad allows students to gain academic, cultural and experiential knowledge while in a foreign country.

In addition to gaining college credit, students learn about a country’s culture, which allows them to notice differences between that country and the US, according to White.

“It just opened my eyes to other cultures in general and how different the U.S. is compared to Europe,” White said. “In general, France is a little bit more private. I’m from the Midwest so we’re very used to saying hi to people even if we don’t know them, just walking down the street, and they don’t do that, so it was a little bit of an adjustment.”

On top of cultural differences between countries, students who study abroad experience new diets first-hand.

Social relations and policy junior Brianna Aiello noticed the difference in food after studying in London her freshman year and in Amsterdam in the summer of 2019.

“I think it was a lot more of a chill environment, and I could definitely tell that ... they cared a lot about the health and safety of students,” Aiello said. “I know the cafeteria at the University of Amsterdam was phenomenal. They had vegan options, they had kosher, they had halal, and it was really nice to see that.”

Along with studying, the Office of Education Abroad offers the opportunity for students to intern abroad. Humanities pre-law junior Alia Jones interned at 3M’s digital marketing department in Sydney, Australia and noticed the difference in the work culture in Australia compared to the U.S.

“They have a more relaxed work culture, where in America we’re very ‘Type A’ about our work,” Jones said. “We want things to be done by a certain deadline and it’s very strict and orderly, but there, things are a little more relaxed and people have as little more freedom to make sure they are taking care of their selves first and then also taking care of their work, so it was less stressed.”

Students had different reasons for deciding to study abroad, such as the opportunity to be far away from home and to be independent.

“It’s really far away, and I thought it would be a unique opportunity,” Jones said. “I kinda just wanted to go as far as possible to really expand my horizons and get comfortable being far away from family and friends. I thought it was a nice balance for a country mainly because they speak English so I wasn’t going to have too much of a language barrier, but it was still a different culture.”

However, all the students agreed studying abroad is a worthwhile experience.

“Do it,” White said. “I never thought that I was going to study abroad, but a couple of my other friends and a couple of my teachers opened up and gave me some more information, kept pushing me toward it and I mean, it’s just something I never thought I was going to do and I really enjoyed it.”

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