Study abroad program returns to pre-COVID numbers

Each year more than 200 Minnesota State students study abroad. On Tuesday the Center for Global Engagement held a fair in Mav Ave to share the many  options available to students.

The Center for Global Engagement works with students wanting to travel as part of their university experience.

MSU history and creative writing sophomore Brooke Van Gelderen is preparing to travel to Hachioji, Japan for MSU’s summer term.

She said these summer courses are structured differently than MSU’s. They will meet once a week at two credits each. She is enrolled in courses in religion history, constitutional history, poetry, American literature and Japanese language.

“I’ve been wanting to go to Japan for years, since I was very little,” Van Gelderen said. “I was pretty much dead set on Japan. I always thought it would be interesting going to other places, it’s just that Japan is the place I always wanted to go so I didn’t really see the point in going anywhere else.”

The fair had faculty and student representatives for the Center for Global Engagement who invited agencies they partner with for logistical support, such as Academic Programs International, and other universities in the Minnesota State system, such as St. Cloud State University, which offers a temporary transfer program for study abroad students.

Tina Kirk is a representative from API who spent a year in England during college before spending time in Russia with the peace corps.

“I absolutely loved it,” Kirk said. “I’m a huge proponent of students having the opportunity, not just to travel through a place, but to live somewhere and study and actually become part of the local community. You really get a sense of how people live, what’s important to them, what they value, what we have in common with each other. 

Graduate student Sammi Siggelkow and senior James Henry work with the Center for Global Engagement after both studied abroad in different countries.

Henry spent a semester in Barcelona, Spain learning about international business and the Spanish language.

“My Spanish is ‘poquito,’ it is very little. But that was one of the exciting factors for me, going over there and learning Spanish and immersing myself in the culture. I will always be extremely grateful for that.”

Henry said another important aspect of studying abroad was seeing supply chain issues stemming from the war in Ukraine from a different lens.

“It was kinda cool to learn how it’s not just affecting the United States, it’s affecting the whole world,” Henry said.

Siggelkow had a different experience. What was supposed to be a six-month trip to Australia beginning in March 2020 ended up being 10 days before she needed return home due to the first COVID lockdown.

“The whole experience of planning this made me more independent as a person who travels,” she said. “Now I will never not have travel insurance.”

Erica Johnson, the director of the Center for Global Engagement, said traveling to other countries “changes you.”

“You’ll find yourself maybe thinking in a different language, missing your community you had there,” Johnson said. “You’ll find that you’ll be faced with challenges and because you’ve learned to believe in yourself and you can handle those difficulties or whatever life throws at you, you become adaptable. You become more culturally aware, more empathetic, you really immerse yourself as a global citizen.”

The Center for Global Engagement can be reached through MavConnect. Study abroad scholarships are open for application on Scholarship Finder, which closes Feb. 28.

Header photo: With the study abroad program being highly sought-after, numbers are boosted after being diminished due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)

Write to Carly Bahr at

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