Study abroad program offers language, cultural opportunities

UMSL student Chantal Rivadeneyra is pictured here in Strasbourg, France, where she studied at the Ecole de Management from January to June. (Photo by Chantal Rivadeneyra)

Chantal Rivadeneyra yearned to learn French with a native’s accent. Scott Morrissey hungered for a foreign adventure. And Jack Tucker wanted to refine his Spanish skills.

All three University of Missouri–St. Louis students not only accomplished their goals but took away much more during their study abroad experience. A new crop of students can find out about UMSL’s study abroad program at an upcoming fair set for Aug. 30 at the Millennium Student Center.

“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Rivadeneyra, a double major in information systems and international business.

She spent six months studying at the Ecole de Management, a top business school in Strasbourg, France. The academic experience not only complemented her studies at UMSL, but made her grow as a person.

“I learned a lot about myself by learning how to act and adapt to the different cultural values, emotions and habits that were happening in my environment” she said. “Approach the entire international experience with an open mind. You have to be a sponge and assimilate and absorb as much as possible about the culture.”

Tucker, who is majoring in secondary education and Spanish, had never even been out of the United States before he registered for his first study abroad session, and now he’s completed three trips. He has studied in Costa Rica, in Dominican Republic and most recently in Valparaiso, Chile.

“I wanted to do something different. Chile seemed perfect because it was in South America and close to the ocean,” Tucker said.

Studying abroad forced him out of his comfort zone, which he thought was imperative to becoming a fluent Spanish speaker.

“My motivation came from wanting to immerse myself in an environment where I would be forced to speak, read and think in Spanish,” he said.

Tucker’s advice for students thinking about studying abroad, but are put off by the possible expense – just do it! He said the experience is well worth it.

“Not only did I learn a lot of Spanish, I learned more about the world, my own country and myself. I have hundreds of memories and I feel as though I have met some of the greatest people in this world,” he said.

Morrissey, a major in communication with a minor in Spanish and a certificate in public relations studied in Costa Rica from January to April of 2011.

“It is truly a priceless experience,” he said.

When he wasn’t hitting the books he took time to explore beach towns, volcanoes and the rainforest.

“The program changed my life,” Morrissey said. “I am more confident, more outgoing, more open-minded, and more adventurous.”

Students interested in finding out more about studying overseas can attend a Study Abroad Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 30. in Century Room C at the Millennium Student Center on UMSL’s North Campus. The fair is sponsored by International Studies and Programs. UMSL offers more than 80 study abroad programs.

Study Abroad Office staff will also be available to answer questions at the fair, as will past study abroad participants.

Liz Shabani, study abroad coordinator at UMSL, said foreign studies programs offer students invaluable opportunities. Not only do they receive the education component but they get to be immersed in a different culture, acquire a new language and potentially set themselves apart in the competitive job market

“Students who study abroad often have experiences where they gather skills and insights that will be valuable in any work force,” Shabani said.

UMSL study abroad programs are organized to fit nearly all the needs of UMSL students. There are programs available for all majors, and sessions abroad vary from two weeks up to an entire academic year.

Click here or below to view a video about UMSL’s study abroad programs.

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