Study abroad choices abound for students


On Wednesday afternoon, NMU students interested in traveling overseas got a chance to do some window shopping of Northern’s study abroad programs at the annual Office of International Programs open house.

The event featured displays showcasing the study abroad programs Northern offers, which range from week long trips to coffee-growing regions of Nicaragua to full year study abroad programs sponsored by AHA International. AHA International is an international academic program that sponsors overseas study by American students.

Marcelo Siles, executive director of the Office of International Programs at NMU, said his goal, and the aim of the fair, was to increase student involvement in the programs.

“My goal is to substantially increase the number of students French chateaus. The total cost of the trip was around $5,000.

Also at the interest fair was English professor John Smolens who was drumming up excitement for a trip to Italy that he will be taking students on. The trip will feature three four-credit classes – one in travel writing, one in Italian art and architecture, and one in basic Italian language.

Smolens said he got the idea for the class from a trip he led to Italy last year as part of a class.

“Last year I taught travel writing for an entire semester and then took my class to Italy. This year we will be extending the program into a full six week experience,” he said. “I can’t think of a single experience that students will have that will be more valuable to them while they are at college.”

Susan Morgan, coordinator for education abroad, said that NMU has been working to expand the program offerings for students. In the ten years she has worked for NMU, she says she has seen the program change greatly.

“Interest is growing, numbers are growing, but what’s really interesting for me is that in the 10 years I’ve been doing this at NMU, the nature of international study has changed. It used to be students would go to Europe and stay in one place,” she said. “We’re adding in opportunities such as service learning, internships, self-designed programs. We’re also seeing students go to new more non-traditional places such as Morocco and Ghana.”

According to the Office of International Programs Web site, NMU offers study abroad programs in more than 30 foreign countries.

Morgan said that many students have misconceptions of what is required to travel abroad.

“A lot of students assume you need to know a language or have a ton of money to study abroad. They might be surprised to learn that you don’t,” she said.

Most study abroad programs offer classes in English for American students studying in foreign universities and the Office of International Programs has been working with the NMU foundation to increase the number of scholarships available to students who take classes overseas.

The steps for students who are interested in studying abroad need to take are not complicated ones.

“They should get a passport; they aren’t going anywhere without it. They should start planning early and talk with their advisor or professor to plan what classes they need to take,” Morgan said. “Then they need to come to our office and meet with me about what their options are.”

She added that she feels all students should take advantage of the opportunities that Northern offers for studying abroad.

“I studied abroad in college for a year, and it changed me. It’s the perfect time to do it – while students are still independent and not tied down to a mortgage. It’s not just travel, it’s a way to purposely put yourself into the world and conquer the world for a semester,” she said. “You come back changed: you’re confident, you’re a risk taker, and you know who you are and you know your country better.”