After being put under a travel ban due to COVID-19, the education abroad program at Minnesota State University, Mankato is getting ready for a normal semester by sending students to a new country.
Director of Center for Global Engagement Erica Johnson discussed what the abroad program offers MSU students.
“One of the biggest benefits of an education abroad program is the opportunity for students to not only earn college credit while experiencing a different culture, but also to learn a lot of the soft skills or social capital,” she stated. “They’re great opportunities for experiential learning and for having the world as your classroom versus just being outside of the traditional classroom.”
When the pandemic first hit, a travel ban on all international travel for Minnesota state system schools was put in place to protect students and faculty. Throughout the past two years, the school has been able to send students on national abroad trips, as there were fewer restrictions. With this being the only abroad option, there was an increase in students who took advantage of this.
“We’ve had a huge increase in the number of our students participating in an exchange program called The National Student Exchange. Our students have the ability to go to over 250 schools that are located around the U.S., including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. They can study for up to two semesters,” Johnson explained. “It’s also been a great program for our international students who might have restrictions to go to other countries. In a normal year we might have had four students participate, but right now we’re up to about 25. It’s really taken off over the last year and a half.”
Now that more people have received their COVID-19 vaccinations and transmission numbers are beginning to shrink, the center is able to send students on international trips once again.
MSU fifth year senior Colin Moore, who is a student programming coordinator at the Center for Global Engagement, took a year to study abroad in France during the 2019-2020 academic year.
“It started off as just wandering in the office and asking ‘How can I study abroad? Where can I go?’ I’m a French major, so France was one that I was looking at for sure and luckily they have a business program in France,” Moore explained. “It was pretty easy for me to narrow down my choices.”
Signing up for an abroad program is easier than one might think. With various different abroad programs available, the staff at the Center for Global Engagement are there to help students find the program for them.
“We start planning a year in advance and we’ll work really closely with students to find the right fit of a program for them. By right fit, it’s a combination of the student’s major, their goals that they’re looking to get out of an abroad program, affordability, and location,” Johnson stated. “We’ll also work very closely with financial aid, so all of our students are encouraged to meet with financial aid even if they don’t receive it in order to help plan for budgeting and costs.”
During his time in France, Moore quickly learned how different life is in France compared to the United States.
“I had been to France for a month a couple years before I went, so I kind of had an idea of what it was life [there] was going to look like. Still, the last time I was in France I lived with a host family and this time I got an apartment by myself and I was kind of on my own,” Moore stated.
He also learned how students can make the most out of their studying abroad trip.
“Be as spontaneous as you can, don’t plan things. The best trips are the ones that I was told of two days before,” Moore commented.
There are various programs available for students who are looking to study abroad. These programs can last anywhere from a week to a year, either in the country or overseas. Students who are interested in finding a program that works best for them are encouraged to visit the center in the basement of Morris Hall.
Write to Jenna Peterson at Jenna.Peterson@mnsu.edu