Study abroad teaches memorable lessons

Both groups from MCCC spent the day in Rome and took a group photo in front of the the Flumi Fountain. (Photo courtesy of Dan Shaw)

A group of MCCC students and professors set their sights last spring far beyond the four walls of a classroom.

The 18-day Study Abroad Program to Italy and Greece introduced students to cultures, concepts, and ideas not typically accessible to the average MCCC student.

While their peers were trying to navigate the construction on campus, those in the Study Abroad Program were earning credits in subjects like

Photojournalism and Global Business Marketplace in Mediterranean Europe – all while touring places like the ruins of Pompeii and the ancient Greek sanctuary of Delphi.

Sixty students participated in the program. Half of the students were in a group with Political Science professor Joanna Sabo, Business professor Wendy Wysocki, and English professor William McCloskey.

The other half were in a group with History professor Edmund La Clair and Journalism professor Dan Shaw. Though most elected to take one, students were permitted to take up to three classes.

Samantha Bartley, who took History, thinks traveling and learning go hand in hand.

“It’s great that education is the basis of the trip,” Bartley said. “It’s like an epic field trip with your class from MCCC!”

Bartley also spoke about the convenience of traveling with an itinerary and a group.

“I think it gives students an opportunity to travel in a safe way without the hassle of having to find hotels, transportation, or creating a travel agenda in the process,” Bartley said. “It is nice to really only have to worry about yourself, not all the stressful parts that come with traveling.”

Seeing cities, buildings, and art in real life was a surreal experience.

“What stood out to me was all the artwork we had the opportunity to see,” Bartley said. “We went to so many museums filled with paintings and sculptures by artists like Michelangelo and Raphael. Seeing artwork that up to that point I had only seen images of in textbooks or on TV was incredible.”

It’s not just the students who are doing the learning on these trips.

Sabo, one of the driving forces behind the Study Abroad program, received a crash course in Communism during the 2011 trip to Central and Eastern Europe.

“One of my favorite moments was having three young Poles teach us about Soviet Communism – with a touch of humor,” Sabo said.

Memories are an integral part of the study abroad experience.

Sabo, who has participated in every MCCC trip since 2006, has numerous favorite memories.

“Sitting on a rooftop cafe with non-traditional students discussing the difference between Parliament and Congress, while having a spectacular view of Trafalgar Square in 2015,” Sabo said. “And everything, absolutely everything, about the Europe 2017 trip, especially Mykonos, Greece!”

Memories are not always happy. In Bartley’s case, some memories teach a lesson.

“The first thing that comes to mind was toward the end of the trip when we visited Santorini,” Bartley said. “I didn’t realize until we got there that the city was up on the top of a mountain.”

In an effort to save money, she decided to forego the cable cars and walk to the top.

“I regretted this decision almost instantly,” Bartley said.

She discovered she was ill-prepared to walk almost 600 painfully steep steps. 

“One of the worst parts, though, was weaving through the dozens of donkeys that were occupying the steps as well,” Bartley said.

In the end, she made it to the top and was rewarded with a spectacular view and a feeling of accomplishment.

Although she was proud of herself, Bartley did learn a lesson.

“Next time, though, I’ll take the cable cars!” she said.

While there are numerous positives to participating in the Study Abroad Program, there are also obstacles. 

The thought of learning about Venetian poets while walking the streets of Venice might be a dream come true for students, but money might deter them from ever considering the program.

Luckily, there are options for students who do not think they will be able to afford the trip.

“Students can see Valerie Culler in Financial Aid who can advise them about what is available,” Sabo said. “Student loans are available. There is also work/study programs, relatives, fundraising, and cloud funding. And sometimes, even scholarships are available.”

Students must pass a background check and have no alcohol or drug-related offenses on their records. 

The next trip is scheduled for May 2019, visiting England, Ireland and Scotland. Anyone interested in learning more about the trip can attend the first informational meeting on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. in room Z257.

Bartley encourages everyone to study abroad.

“This is a way to see the world, experience new cultures, make new friends, and learn more about yourself in a safe, affordable way, that leaves you with an extensive amount of knowledge and appreciation about our world, and education in general,” Bartley said. 

“It was an amazing experience for me, and I am already looking forward to the next trip!”