Spring 2012 Student Highlights
Meet Thomas Uthipratuma!
Thomas is a third year student double majoring in Global Studies and Spanish with a double minor in Latin American Studies and Asian Studies. Thomas has started his ISEP exchange at the Universidad Católica de Córdoba, Argentina, this summer, and will continue studying in Argentina throughout the academic year. Thomas took some time to tell us more about his initial experiences in South America:
What has been the best part of your experience so far? "Hands down, the best part of my time in Argentina has been the hospitality and generosity the Argentine people display. In Córdoba, everyone is willing to talk to you if you have curiosities or questions about anything and everything. Most people greet with a near-kiss on the cheek, and all are interested to know where you are from, what you are doing in Argentina, and if you want to drink maté (a traditional tea) with them. Since my arrival, I have met many new friends and families that have invited me and others to meals at their homes or excursions in the surrounding areas. It’s very comfortable here, and for this reason, I am glad I came to Córdoba instead of Buenos Aires. The lifestyle is very relaxed and welcoming; I never feel awkward or uncomfortable walking down the street. Los Cordobeses—as the citizens of Córdoba are called—really know how to make you feel at home away from home."
What has been the biggest challenge? "The biggest social difference I am still adjusting to is the daily routine. It becomes very ambiguous when discussing the matters of “When is it time to eat?” and “Do I get to sleep BEFORE 4 in the morning?”. The conception of “time” here is not the rigorous 8-5 clockwork that we have in the States. (Don’t think about arriving on time when meeting up with some locals, they will usually arrive 1 – 1 1/2 hours later than planned.) A more trivial challenge I am facing is the omnipresence of English. In general, my main goal is improve my Spanish to a bilingual level. People around the world, however, know how crucial it is to know English in order to compete and “advance” in today’s workforce—which is, without a doubt, an international contest. If I tell people I am from the United States, they prefer speaking English, and for me, this is counterproductive."
Meet Sara Meier!
Sara is a senior Global Studies major with a minor in Asian Studies. Sara has been studying abroad in Japan since August 2011 at Nihon-Mishima University as an ISEP exchange student. Between classes, Sara has been assisting with the earthquake and tsunami clean-up effort in the north. She took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her experience:
How is Japan's reaction to the disaster different than what you would normally expect here in the U.S.? How is it the same? "Since I didn't arrive here until 6 months after the tragedy, I can't say for sure what Japan's initial reaction was; although, I can describe the lingering reaction that is still felt here. There are still many news shows and specials that cover the impact of the disaster and the progress that is being made to fix Japan. To me, this is different than the US. I personally feel that in the US, we have a tendency to focus on a disaster (domestic or international) for only a short period of time, then move on to the next big piece of news. I may only feel that way because I'm not much of an avid news-watcher, but that is just how it seems. There is also a similarity between the US and Japan, though. Places south of the Tohoku region aren't suffering any long-term effects of the earthquake or tsunami, so the disaster can't be felt here like it can be up north. I don't think the people here have forgotten it by any means, but it's not a huge problem in their lives anymore."
How has this experience impacted you personally? "At the risk of sounding cliche, I would say that this experience did put things in perspective in my own life. I really can't put into words how it made me feel to stand in front of an elementary school where 74 children died and now have graves. It's a very emotionally- and mentally-taxing experience that changes how you look at your own life. You can't describe it--only feel it."
Meet Lisa Buck!
Lisa is a Missouri State University junior double majoring in Dietetics and Spanish. She is currently on her second study abroad program, this time to Costa Rica! Lisa tells us a bit about her Costa Rican experience so far:
Tell us about your host family! Would you recommend homestays to other students? My host family here is amazing! I live with just a mom and another girl from my program, although there is often friends or family visiting. My mom is always trying to make sure we are happy, and she always treats us as her own children. She loves just talking with us for hours, which is a great opportunity for me to learn about the culture here and practice my Spanish! She cooks us 3 delicious meals a day all with fresh food from her garden or the local market. We also go on family outings to different places around Costa Rica. I would definitely recommend a homestay to other students, as it is the perfect way to really immerse yourself in a culture.
What advice would you give to students who may be considering an “independent” study abroad option, like you did? The program I chose, SOL Education Abroad, was more "independent" in that fact that I found it while looking around on the internet, and no students from MSU had gone through them. Choosing SOL was a little risky, but it looked like it offered just as much if not more than what other programs offered and for a lower price. After being here a month, I can say that I am extremely happy that I chose SOL - I love everything about the program. I would advise students not to be afraid to try a new program, just be sure to do your research. One of the most helpful things I found was to get in contact with students who have gone through the program in the past to hear about what their experience was like. The most important thing is to be happy with whichever program you chose and to make the experience your own!
Meet Jessica Miller!
Jessica is a junior Photography major with a Latin American Studies minor. Jessica is currently studying abroad at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina through ISA. Jessica took a moment out of her busy travel schedule to answer some questions about her experience in Argentina:
What has been the most exciting experience in Argentina so far?
There have been a lot of exciting things! I think recently some of the most exciting have been my conversations with the locals, they have been brief because I am still very basic, but I am really proud of how my Spanish is coming along. I got to tour Teatro Colon, and that was breathtaking. The dance clubs (boliches) have been incredible, and the food has been awesome. I went to a concert last night and that was a blast. Everyone was really enthusiastic about the band, even the people at the outskirts of the crowd were dancing, and that kind of enthusiasm was electrifying.
How is life in Buenos Aires different from life in Springfield, MO?
There are a lot of subtle differences but Buenos Aires is a lot like big city is in the United States. There are definite differences between the way people interact with each other, but one of the differences that it has been a little difficult to get used to is the food/hours of activity. For example, in the morning, breakfast is usually crackers and jelly. And dinners are huge, but they are not usually eaten until nine or ten, so if you go out at six or seven there are places that either are not open or just offer coffee and small snacks. My host family has been incredible, so I felt at home right away, so the transitions were probably easier for me.
Meet Leesha Borman!
Leesha is a sophomore majoring in Anthroplogy and Geography with an emphasis in Environmental and Natural Resources. Leesha is currently studying abroad at the University of Botswana through ISEP. Leesha talks about her experience at UB so far:
What’s the biggest difference between classes in Botswana and classes at MSU?:"Here in Botswana NOTHING is ever set in stone regarding classes. Teachers are able to change class times whenever they feel like it and sometimes courses can even be cancelled without students even knowing! This of course is an extreme but fairly common in the first few couple weeks of school. In addition to this, professors are late half the time or sometimes might not even show up for lectures! On the other hand, the way professors teach is fairly similar to the styles in the States. Some professors use Powerpoint and others tend to go 'old fashioned' and just have a lecture or discussion. Also, class sizes can range from 5 students to 400 students. It all depends whether or not the class is a core class or an elective. All in all, classes here in Botswana are taught similarly to Missouri State."
Any advice for future Africa-bound travelers?: "Whatever people tell you about Africa who have never been to the continent is most likely wrong! Africa is a huge CONTINENT and just remember there are so many different cultures here and every town is unique. Do not be afraid to approach people and ask for help or directions. I have learned that the most important information is usually transferred through word of mouth and not on paper or the internet. Their perception of time is different here and just remember to stay relaxed and just role with the punches. Africa has so much to offer and everyone should try to visit this magnificent place at least once in their life."
Meet Kunti Bentley!
Kunti is a senior double major in Anthropology and Global Studies who is currently studying abroad in Valparaiso, Chile through ISA. Kunti (pictured here with her family) took some time to answer a few questions about her global experience so far:
Why did you decide to study abroad? "In order to fully acquire a grasp on the concept of how global our world is becoming, I felt that it was especially important see that world outside of the classroom. Having traveled independently and having attended MSU, I realize that combining classroom experience with life experience is one of the best ways to become a well educated, globally aware citizen. Getting involved in a study away program is the perfect way to combine these two elements of education."
What have you enjoyed about Chile? "Chile is such an intense country and it is amazing to see first hand how its recent history has impacted the sociocultural environment. Getting a glimpse into how the society functions and into how passionate its people are has been one of my favorite aspects of spending time in this country. The streets are full of life, music, art...people are exploding with expression and it is wonderful to see firsthand."
What advice would you give to other students who are considering studying abroad with their family? "My only real advice would be to be flexible and persevere. If your goal is to gain experience studying abroad and you want to take your family, there is a program out there that will fit your needs. Don´t stop asking questions and don´t be afraid to let people know you want to travel with your family. Research every place and every program and you will find one that will suit you and your family."
Fall 2011 Student Highlights
Meet Tomminesha Matchingtouch!
Tomminesha is a junior at MIssouri State double majoring in Criminology and Psychology. She is currently studying abroad as an ISEP exchange student at Turku University in Finland. Tomminesha comments on her experience in Finland so far:
What you like most about Finland? "Thus far, I find the people to be an experience like none other. Everyone I have encountered is kind and friendly. Turku is a very diverse city, rich in culture, and the cultural experiences are vast and varied. The people here want to ensure that I am experiencing Finland and learning all its wonderful history and beliefs. I have had the opportunity to visit many of their museums. They are an educational experience in themselves."
Is there anything about Finland that has surprised you? "I arrived here the end of August. To my delight, the weather was a plus. I was prepared for the frigid temperatures of Finland. Instead, it was nice and warm. I was reminded of home. No snow as of yet, but I’m sure I will see plenty before my time here is over. Oh and I've come across more than a handful of people who seriously believe Santa Claus was born and still lives in Finland."
How has studying abroad benefitted you personally? "Studying abroad has really tested my independence and study skills. I'm here without the comfort of home and family. I am independent in every sense of the word. I have really stepped up to the challenge of becoming completely secure in relying on myself to accomplish tasks. In my opinion, student life in Finland is very active. There are many opportunities to travel throughout Europe and participate in various clubs and activities. In an excess, these activities can be distracting from school work. Most of the courses I have taken are 3-4 weeks in length. Within that time period, I have textbooks and journal/research articles to read for the exams. There is no study guide or short cut to better prepare for the exam. I have to study everything and rely on the few lectures throughout the weeks to decipher what the instructors might ask on the exams. At first it was a bit overwhelming, because I wasn't use to having to do so much in a month’s time, but within the short period of time being here I have balanced being social and succeeding in my courses."
Meet Alison Bickers!
Alison is a junior Early Childhood Education major studying abroad in Greece in partnership with Drury University's Center in Greece. Between island travels, Alison took some time to talk about her incredible experience so far:
What have you enjoyed most? "My study away experience in Aigina, Greece has been such an amazing experience and I am so excited that I still have several weeks left of the semester. What I have enjoyed most about the experience so far is being completely immersed within the Greek culture and finding my place within the community where I live. Through living within a community, I have had the opportunity to observe and experience the Greek island culture first hand while learning about the past and present history of the culture in my classes. Not only do I get to see my homework and studies come to life, but I also get to find my own place within the Greek island lifestyle. When I know my way around the town, have my favorite spots to read or watch the sunset, and the supermarket manager remembers my name, I know I have begun to become part of the island. Throughout the semester we take several trips with our professors and trips by ourselves which are so much fun and we learn a lot, but the best part of this experience is living in a new world for a few months. I will have more opportunities in the future to travel to different parts of the world to do the normal sight seeing and tourist kinds of things for a week or two, but who knows if I will ever get the chance to live for several months in a completely foreign environment like Aigina, Greece again."
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced with studying abroad? "There are several challenges while studying abroad, but typically they add some thrill and excitement while enhancing memories made, as long as the difficulties are faced with an optimistic attitude (such as figuring out transportation issues, not knowing various languages to communicate effectively, etc). The greatest challenge I have faced is figuring out how to balance my time. While it is important to study and work on homework, it is also just as important (if not more important) to experience the world you are living in while abroad. Plus it is essential to factor in time to relax and get some good rest which is something I was missing in the beginning within my schedule. Time management is something that is difficult as a student in general, but when abroad the challenge is heightened as the experiences outside of the classroom are new and thrilling on a daily basis. A lot of times I find myself having a hard time focusing on homework because I would rather be out walking around town, getting a gyro from my favorite restaurant, taking pictures of fishing boats, etc. As I am abroad longer I find more ways to help myself manage my time, such as setting a bed time, making lists of what needs to be done for school everyday, and even planning out time to explore the community. When I plan for time to go out in the community I can more easily focus on my reading or studying because I have my "exploring time" to look forward too. While time management is an issue for me while abroad, there are several ways to overcome the issue, just like any of the other challenges faced while abroad. Part of studying away is learning through experiencing and one of the best ways to learn is to experience challenges and figure out to break through and move past the issue taking the lesson learned with you for future situations faced while abroad and beyond."
Meet Sumer Fletcher
Sumer is a junior Global Studies major who is currently studying abroad at Savoie University in France through ISEP. Sumer talks about how living abroad has influenced her personal development:
What’s been the best part about your experience so far? "Honestly I would have to say that the best part of my experience so far actually has nothing to do with France specifically. The best part really has just been the personal challenge and learning experience. I'm such a different person now than I was before I left because this whole study abroad experience has helped me grow so much. I feel stronger, braver, more confident; and I owe it to studying abroad. I can definitely say it's the best decision I've ever made regarding college and maybe even life in general. Travelling through France has been great too though! :)"
What has been the biggest challenge to studying abroad? "I think the emotional ups and downs are the biggest challenge I've had to face with studying abroad. For me, it's kind of an emotional roller coaster - one minute I'm having the time of my life and the next I'm wishing I was home with my family. The down moments are usually fleeting but nonetheless it takes a toll on you mentally, emotionally, and even physically. But that's just what comes when you make a change as big as moving to a country on the other side of the globe - it's all part of the experience. Every challenge I face here is an opportunity to grow so I embrace it."
And the photo? "Me on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea in Nice, France."
Be sure to check out Sumer's personal travel blog!
Meet Cody Vaughn
Cody is junior double major in Psychology and Communication. Cody is currently studying in Australia for the fall semester through AustraLearn. Cody answered the following questions about his semester abroad so far:
Have you tried anything fun yet? "The craziest thing I’ve done so far was probably White Water rafting in the Tully River in North Queensland. I knew it would be hard work, but I legitimately had no idea just how close to death I’d feel! It was REALLY intense, really cold, and really exhilarating. We flipped, hit several boulders, and even got stuck under a gushing waterfall. Not only was the experience crazy, but I must be as well for being such a thrill-seeker! Oh yeah, and petting two wild sea turtles while scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef!"
What have you enjoyed most about your experience so far? "I have truly loved the diversity and versatility Australia has offered me. I live in Sydney, only a short bus ride from the heart of downtown, but I also live a short walk from beautiful beaches and wonderful residential neighborhoods. The Aussie way of life has really changed my perspective and opened my eyes. I have been able to meet people from across the globe, all with different backgrounds and stories to tell. I’ve also found peace in being able to step aside and appreciate the beauty of both natural and man-made wonders. I have so much more that I could say, but the most enjoyable thing for me is the fact that I can do or see practically anything I want here, because Australia has it all! I never want to leave!"
What advice do you have for students considering going abroad? "I know it sounds cliché, but I would honestly have to give the advice, 'know thyself.' By going abroad you’re really able to gain independence and learn so much about the great big world out there, but it’s a lot easier if you’re pretty confident and grounded before you go. Going abroad has the potential to be a great way to discover yourself, but I recommend knowing what your natural tendencies are, good and bad, before you go out into the world. If you have the tendency to be reclusive, careless about expenses, or irresponsible when it comes to having a good time (etc.), it’s good to recognize that and think of ways to manage it when you’re on your own. The last thing you want is to have some kind of personal emergency you caused yourself when you’re halfway around the world. If you’re well in tune with who you are before you go, you’ll feel much happier and in control when your family and friends from home aren’t around you all the time."
Summer 2011 Student Highlights
Meet Laura Pearson
Laura has served the Study Away Programs office as a student worker for the past year. Laura recently graduated from Missouri State University with her B.A. in Religous Studies and will be joining the Peace Corps starting in September. Laura will be working as a Youth Development Coordinator in Cameroon, Africa for the next two years. Study Away Programs staff is extremely proud of Laura and all of her accomplishments. Laura's passion for international education has impacted many study away students and international exchange students. She has made invaluable contributions to Study Away Programs and has left an unforgettable legacy in the office. Best of luck, Laura, we will miss you!
Laura talks about her study abroad experience and how it has impacted her professional goals:
"I've loved travelling my whole life, and I've wanted to join the Peace Corps for as long as I can remember. Even from my first experience abroad when I was fifteen and spent a week on a mission trip in Mexico, I knew that my calling was to serve people internationally. Even going into university, I wasn't sure what career I wanted, but I knew that I wanted to spend a few years in Africa helping in any way I could. After studying abroad for six months on Reunion Island, I was more sure of it than ever. Of course, I considered other options as well, like Teach for America and some non-profits, but I truly feel that the Peace Corps has always been closest to my heart. I feel as if my assignment is perfect for me, because it combines so many things I'm passionate about: African culture, living simply, working with youth, the French language, and adventure! I think nothing is more imperative to our nation than strong cooperation and understanding between the United States and foreign nations, so I'll be glad to become an agent of that work. After the Peace Corps, I hope to pursue graduate work in either International Development, or International Human Rights."
Meet Lauren Ronchetto
Lauren is an MSU sophomore majoring in Computer Animation. She spent the summer taking classes in Japan through our affiliate partner, AsiaLearn. Lauren talks about her experience abroad so far:
Weirdest food you’ve eaten? "Gyusuji Curry", which is curry made out of beef tendon.
What have you enjoyed most about studying abroad? I love getting to try different kinds of Japanese food every day with my friends. I also enjoyed going shopping, visiting a Japanese grade school for our class field trip & sight seeing. My favorite place to visit was the Mt. Takasaki Monkey Reserve.
Is there anything about your experience that has surprised you? People in Japan are really nice and willing to help you; even if you can barely speak any Japanese. Also, we had a Typhoon Day thanks to Typhoon Ma-on. That was fun!
Meet Weston Bland
Weston is a senior double majoring in Global Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at MSU. He is currently in transition between his semester at American University of Sharjah in the UAE and returning to the American University of Cairo in Egypt. Weston provides his perspective on life as an American in the Middle East:
What have you enjoyed most about your study abroad experience so far? I have especially enjoyed the first hand perspective I've gained into the political developments of the Middle East that have taken place the past few months. Living in Cairo during the revolution and being able to discuss my experiences, along with the developments of the Arab Spring, with the people of various parts of the Middle East, such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Jordan, have all been invaluable experiences.
What has been the biggest challenge to being an American college student in the Middle East? My biggest challenge as an American in the Middle East has been trying to understand the various meanings my identity as an American has for people across the region. Given the political involvement of America in the region, it is difficult to escape some of the ideas associated with the nationality on my passport. For some, such as the Middle Eastern students in my political science classes, or the Egyptian man who presented me with a "Made in the U.S.A." tear gas canister, I'm associated with a country that has long tried to manipulate the affairs of the region; for others, such as the men in the shisha cafes who shout "welcome" every morning when I walk to class, I represent a growing American population that carries a strong desire to live and learn in the Middle East. Even for cab drivers and the many street children in my neighborhood, my identity as an American marks me with a higher potential for having money. Across the region, my identity often plays a dynamic role in my every day interactions with people, creating a perception that is often complicated and difficult to read.
Spring 2011 Student Highlights
Meet John Hederman
John is a senior German Education Major with an English Education Minor. He is currently studying at Katholische Universitat Eichstatt-Ingolstadt in Germany through ISEP and answered the following questions:
Other countries you've visited? I've also visited Ireland so far. It was beautiful.
What have you enjoyed most about your study abroad experience? My most enjoyable experience is a hard one because it has all been amazing but I would say hiking with some friends to the Roman castle remains and climbing all the way to the top of the tower. It was a great view of a beautiful place.
What has been the biggest challenge about being a U.S. college student in another country? For me, the biggest challenge has been getting used to speaking everyday. When I first arrived it was hard to speak to people, I really didn't feel confident in my abilities but it has gotten easier as the time has gone on.
Anything else? Germany has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. The people are amazing and the countryside is absolutely breathe-taking. I recommend coming to Germany (and especially in Bavaria, where I live,) and seeing this amazing country.
Meet Theresa Lor
Meet Theresa Lor! Theresa is a junior at Missouri State majoring in International Business. She is currently spending her spring semester studying at Chukyo University in Nagoya, Japan through ISEP. Theresa answered the following questions about her experience so far:
Most interesting food you've tried so far? Chicken gizzard
What have you enjoyed most about your experience abroad? What I enjoyed most is that there are so many places I can to go and explore so I'm always able to do something each day and have fun!
What do you like about being a U.S. college student living in another country? I like the fact that because I'm from America I am able to see how different other people are that do not live in America. I am able to talk to them about our different points of views and tell them about America in case they ever want to visit my country just like I'm visiting theirs'.
Is there anything else you would like the Missouri State University community to know about you? I just wish that more people would want to visit Japan because it is such a beautiful place and there are so many people here who wants to be friends with us. Sure there are stereotypes about what Americans are like, but if people over here get to see and talk to an American person, then they can start to understand why we do the things we do and we will also start to understand why they do the things they do as well.
Meet Ashley Mayer
Ashley just returned from a semester abroad in Scotland, UK at Edinburgh Napier University through ISEP. Ashley is a Mass Media Digital Film Productions major and she just graduated this May! Check out her group project, an online magize that she created for a class in Napier. When asked about studying in Scotland, Ashley answered the following questions:
What have you enjoyed most about studying abroad so far? "I would say that the thing that I have enjoyed the most while studying abroad would have to be the new friendships I have made with people of not just the Scottish Culture but English, Irish, French, Polish, German, and Australian. It is very interesting to know that as an American student, I have a lot in common with these other students. We share the same hopes, fears, and dreams. And for me, being in a different country and culture, this was more than comforting just knowing that I was never truly alone while being thousands of miles away from home."
How has this experience impacted you as a college student? "The overall impact that this experience has had on me has taught me to never take what we have as Americans for granted. We are very privileged as US citizens and we should be very thankful that we have the grace of being free. We are also a very young country and that the United States has a lot to learn from the United Kingdom's history and its people."
Is there anything else you would like the Missouri State community to know about you? "As a Mass Media Digital Film Production student, I am more than thankful that I was given the opportunity to travel to Europe and capture its beauty through my camera lens. I hope to be able to continue traveling around the world and be able to tell the stories of the people I meet through a simple photograph or moving film."
Meet Joseph Ubben
Joseph is a junior, double majoring in Biology and Spanish. He is studying at Cordoba University in Argentina through ISEP. When asked about what he has enjoyed about Argentina so far, Joseph said, "I enjoy living in a culture that does even the small things so radically different. I was nervous when I arrived, but I found a country that was extremely friendly to foreigners of all types. I use English so little around town that when I finally do speak it I use Spanish words without thinking."
Meet Andrea Cudworth
Patricia is a junior Psychology major studying abroad in England through USAC. The highlight of her semester, so far, has been learning a new culture and getting travel around Europe, "I encourage everyone to study abroad if they can- it has been an amazing experience so far and has opened my eyes to so many new things!"
Meet Sarah Gourley
Sarah is a senior Spanish Education major studying abroad in Granada, Spain through ISA. When asked about Spain, Sarah said, "I love the Spanish culture, the food, the people, the atmosphere, siestas!, being able to travel so easily, making amazing friends! I would 100% recommend studying abroad if you get the chance!"