Students study abroad to immerse in cultural experience

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Students study abroad to immerse in cultural experience

Columbia College Spanish majors studying abroad in Alcala de Henares, Spain.

Columbia College Spanish majors studying abroad in Alcala de Henares, Spain.

Columbia College Spanish majors studying abroad in Alcala de Henares, Spain.

Columbia College Spanish majors studying abroad in Alcala de Henares, Spain.

Alexa Vega, staff writer

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Every year, Columbia College offers students the opportunity to study abroad to experience a foreign country and cultural immersion.

The program “is a one-to-one exchange, meaning we can nominate individuals for these schools and exchange programs,” said Melissia Brannen, assistant dean of students and director of multicultural affairs and community resources.

The first step for students interested in studying abroad would be to speak with the appropriate academic advisor and then with Brannen.

Career services encourages students to work with them throughout their application process to ensure a safe placement.

“The study abroad program offers opportunities in France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico and Spain during the summer, fall and spring semesters,” according to the Columbia College website.

“Columbia College offers a variety of short study tours, intermediate and semester abroad programs sponsored by various academic divisions and programs, such as the honors program. [Students] can work with faculty to independently propose and plan a study-travel experience.”

Brannen takes part in assisting the Center for Applied Learning with the program and exchange students.

“It’s a passion area of mine, and I work with exchange students on helping them acquire their visas. I’m one of the people who initiate I-20, helping those who are not from the U.S. Since I’ve been in this role, I’ve worked with study abroad to be able to provide that service,” Brannen said.

Form I-20 is a certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant students only, allowing them to apply for a U.S. visa.

For those who are interested in studying away from home, but not out of the country, there is a chance to study for a semester in Washington, D.C.

“D.C. is a wonderful microcosm of all types of cultures and experiences,” Brannen said.

Students who are exchange students or are interested in study abroad can go for both cultural immersion and foreign language experience.

“Depending upon if you’re going for your academic classes, then that’s something for you to set up with your advisor before you go to make sure it’s going to transfer back and it’s going to contribute to your major program,” Brannen said.

“A lot of students go for the cultural immersion experience. If they’re minoring in a foreign language, that’s the best way for you to really immerse yourself in that culture or study. Even for social work majors, [they] get a worldview [along with] political science majors.”

“When I heard there was a program that our school partners with in Korea, I thought that I could go over there for one semester,” Megan Nguyen, senior international business major, said.

“The most important thing is that I experienced the diversity of the world. Not only [from] the Asian people there, but I also met people from Belgium, France, Australia, even people from the United States. I think that I made a lot of friends from different places in the world.”

If students have been hesitant in the past and unsure about studying abroad, it’s important to learn about the different programs.

“Study abroad is great for any major and also a wonderful opportunity to beef up your resume because adding some global internships abroad shows that you definitely can work in diverse places and environments,” Brannen said.

Brannen had the opportunity to travel abroad during her college experience and highly recommends students do the same.

Megan Nguyen (left), studying abroad in South Korea.
Photo credit: Megan Nguyen

The most important thing is that I experienced the diversity of the world.” -Megan Nguyen

“I spent a semester in France and very much enjoyed that for my undergraduate days. I’ve gone on my own as well,” Brannen said.

Expenses are mostly covered if you are going through a one-on-one exchange. If not, study abroad is covered under student financial aid, according to Brannen.

“There are so many myths that students don’t study abroad because they think it’s too expensive, but if we’re talking about a one-to-one exchange program, there are very few fees associated with that,” Brannen said.

“You might be covering your meals or housing, but tuition is covered already. They also think they can’t do it because of their academic schedule, but I have seen students who are double majoring in biology and music be able to go abroad, and they still graduate on time.”

“It’s a true cultural immersion.” Melissia Brannen

Studying abroad is possible for anyone interested. Especially if you have not yet studied abroad it’s highly recommended and enjoyable.

“It’s possible for everyone. [Study abroad] was a wonderful experience, and I would love to see more of our students go abroad,” Brannen said.

“It was great. I wanted to go there (to South Korea) to study public relations. The school that I went to has a very nice program in English, as well. I went there, and I met a lot of exchange students. From the Korean students, I learned a little bit of the language,” Nguyen said.

“One word to describe my experience would be dynamic. I grew in every part of my life during my study abroad experience and came back a stronger individual,” Keyerra Anderson, senior double major in social work and Spanish, said.

The study abroad program offers students a chance to get out of their comfort zones and what students define as their normal.

“You get to celebrate a whole new set of holidays and be able to be part of that experience. Most of those institutions provide some housing or have host families that might be available, so you can fully immerse yourself,” Brannen said.

“A lot of times, all of the countries we send students to have public transportation like a train or something that they can travel so they can go to other types of places. It’s a true cultural immersion. It definitely forces people to get outside their comfort zone.”

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