Not much else can put the edge on a resume like a study abroad program – but there are so many options.
One option, run through the MCCC International Studies program, is the study abroad trip every two years, which includes three weeks overseas and three weeks in class on campus for six college credits.
The spring 2011 study abroad trip will include stays in Austria, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The group will leave May 10 and return May 30.
“The students are going to see a lot,” said Joanna Sabo, club advisor. “Post-communism, growth in capitalism, growth in productivity, and people there are generally happy but they do have economies that are struggling.”
There is no information yet regarding the 2013 study abroad trip.
Another option to study abroad for a longer duration would be finding an exchange program. One such program, Youth for Understanding, is located on the MCCC campus.
One perk to using an exchange program is the guided assistance that comes with it.
Megan McCaffery-Bezeau is the YFU coordinator at MCCC, who coordinates the living, transportation, and class arrangements for the students.
“If there’s help that they need with changing a class or a bus schedule, they can come to me. I can help them,” she said.
McCaffery-Bezeau wouldn’t be able to get an American MCCC student through to another country, but she can be of assistance. For those interested, please call (734) 384-4258.
“They could contact me and I could obviously get them in the right direction, with the right people,” she said.
Joanna Sabo said she can also give students various options. For those interested, please call (734) 384-4297.
There are currently four exchange students at MCCC through YFU, and they are all here for different reasons.
Axel Missirliu, from Paris, described studying abroad as an opportunity to open your mind.
“It’s the point of the whole thing,” he said. “Let’s go somewhere else, do something else, learn something else, from other people. It’s been a really fun experience.”
Joo-Young Baek, from Seoul, South Korea, said one reason behind her decision was to gain independence from her home and family.
“In my home, my parents always take care of me, and they protect me,” she said. “I just want some change, or something new, and somewhere else where I don’t know anybody.”
Studying abroad is also a great way to hone a foreign language, which is one of the reasons why Domien Schepers, from Alcan, Belgium, told YFU he wanted to study in the U.S.
“I wanted to improve my English so I wanted to go to a country where they speak English, and the United Kingdom was a little too close for me, so I decided to go a little farther.”
Joo-Young said the experience has overall improved her language skill as well, although it was difficult at first.
“I have to speak English to survive,” she said. “It is easier [now] than when I first came here. I learned English since I was in third grade, but I just know how to read and write.”
In January, another South Korean student arrived at the college, giving Joo- Young a native tongue to speak with. Eunjung Bae temporarily goes by her Americanized name, Grace.
There are some downsides to using an exchange program, however.
McCaffery-Bezeau said her greatest challenge is to find a host family to take in a student for a whole year. The volunteer families are diverse, which can make the cultural transition easy or difficult on the students.
“This is my first time that I live with someone else, not my family; so at first it was not easy to adapt to new circumstance, not as comfortable as my house, but they are very nice to me,” Joo-Young said.
Axel lives with host-parents and a younger host-brother and he said everyone gets along. Living in a house with other people was the only way to learn the American lifestyle, Axel said.
“You learn how American people really live. You really get to know how it works out,” he said. “I really love it. There’s no difficulty at all.”
In comparison to a large host family, Domien lives with just one man.
“It is not like a traditional host family, so that’s different, but it’s going really good,” he said. “Sometimes it’s really hard to miss your friends and family. You have to make the best out of it.”
Another downfall to YFU is that classes at MCCC won’t transfer back to a student’s home country. Because of that, students have a sort of freedom to pick what classes to take.
“I’m going to med school when I get back to France,” Axel said. “Whatever I do here will not be brought back, so I take fun classes. I took theater, and some mass media stuff; that’s what I’m interested in, and then stuff that will be useful in my life, like I took a speech class too.”
Other students will take classes that relate to their major, like Joo-Young.
“I take classes I would like to major, like elementary education. This is what I want to study. Or like health class,” she said.
One universal difficulty when studying abroad is finding a welcoming group of friends.
“Making friends and getting to know people, it’s just so weird because most people already have their friends and their group of people that they hang out with,” Domien said.
Homesickness is another issue that foreign exchange students face. Joo-Young said it’s been hard without her family.
“I miss them a lot. I want to go home, but now the spring comes, there are only a few months left, so I will make the most of it.”
Most of the students agreed, however, that leaving Michigan in June will be more difficult than when they left their home countries.
“When I left Belgium I could say I’ll be back in a year. When I leave here I’ll have to say I might be back someday,” Domien said.
For the same reason, Axel said he’s sure he’ll be devastated to leave Michigan.
McCaffery-Bezeau said that while the YFU program is expensive, it costs more for a student to come on their own. However, coming alone is possible.
MCCC student Valerie Biwa, from Namibia, Africa, obtained a student Visa to return to Michigan. Valerie’s family once lived in Flat Rock, so she had college experience at MCCC before.
“I got the opportunity to come back,” she said. “You are never too old to learn, so I gave up everything and came back here. I have to stay for a few years because I am on a student visa, not a cultural exchange program, so I have to, you know, finish my two years for my associates.”
One perk to using a student visa is the freedom to pick the location and college. Valerie was able to select MCCC, in comparison to the YFU students.
“I liked the college; it’s small and more intimate, not like a huge college or university,” she said. “Here it’s small and more intimate and you get more attention. You are able to grasp stuff more.”
The universal issue of homesickness will always persist though, whether traveling is done independently or through a program. Valerie said she often misses her mom.
On her second trip to the U.S., however, she has learned some techniques to stay in touch with her family, such as frequent phone calls and Skype.
“I talk to my mom every week. I know they’re far away, but when I talk to them on the phone, it’s just like they’re in another city,” she said.
There are many options to study abroad and the benefits are obvious, said Sabo.
“Absolutely employers are looking for a global experience,” she said. “Colleges like NYU and Duke University now require a study abroad component to graduate.”
Aside from an improved resume, the cultural experience is beneficial. Joo- Young sounded sure of herself when she said, “this one year experience will make me a different, more better person.”
For more information or options regarding studying abroad, visit www. studyabroad.com.