Study Abroad Fall Information Fair draws students interested in experiencing different cultures

by | Sep 5, 2023

Study abroad advisors, student study abroad alumni and faculty program leaders were all on hand at more than a dozen tables to answer questions and offer resources.
Sandra Trapani, white woman with blonde hair, stands at table and talks with two students, a Black man in a pink shirt and black hat and a Black woman with long hair in a black t shirt.

Sandra Trapani, teaching professor of French and chair of the Department of Language and Cultural Studies, talks with two students about a three-week program to study French in Strasbourg, France. She was one of many faculty program leaders on hand last week to answer questions and offer resources to UMSL students during the UMSL Study Abroad Office’s Fall Information Fair. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

University of Missouri–St. Louis students made their way around the Millennium Student Center’s second floor rotunda Wednesday, perusing the options before them – Italy, Japan, Spain and more. They weren’t deciding on lunch, but instead, where they might want to travel and expand their global knowledge.

The UMSL Study Abroad Office held the Fall Information Fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., so students could learn about the dozens of study abroad opportunities available for the winter intersession, spring 2024, summer 2024 and beyond.

Study abroad advisors, student study abroad alumni, faculty program leaders and representatives from Passport Services were all on hand at more than a dozen tables to answer questions and offer resources to UMSL students interested in traveling abroad.

“We want to introduce students, especially our new students, to all of the opportunities that are out there for them for international study,” said Annie Hyde, manager of UMSL Study Abroad. “We have great information about scholarships and our passport office is here, which is available on campus for students. So, there are a lot of resources that students may not be aware of that we want them to familiarize themselves with.”

Hyde said that the Study Abroad Office wants to help students start to plan ahead because most of the programs will be running next summer.

“They’re really appealing to our students because they’re short term, and they usually are going with a faculty member,” Hyde said of the summer programs. “So, they have that expertise as well as that support. A lot of those faculty members are here talking about their programs, talking about all of the great things that are involved with them – the costs, the benefits. They get to have that one-on-one connection.”

She added that college is an ideal time to travel outside the United States, particularly when students can be supported by faculty leaders.

“Having this experience is really transformative when it comes to not only their personal and academic growth but also what it means for their career potential,” Hyde said. “These are a lot of the soft skills that they’re developing that employers today are really looking for. When you can navigate a foreign country for two weeks or a month or semester, you come back having that additional confidence of, ‘If I could do this, then I can do this next step in my life.’”

Alumni of previous study abroad trips were also on hand at several tables to offer a student perspective. One such alumnae was Domi Bell, an anthropology major and study abroad ambassador. Bell participated in the South Korea: Chonnam National University program.

“Since it’s relatively small compared to the U.S., it’s very easy to travel there,” Bell said of her time in South Korea. “I did a lot of traveling, and then before I came back to the U.S., I visited Japan.”

After returning to the U.S., she began working in the Study Abroad Office as an ambassador, where she has counseled students interested in studying abroad and helped with administrative tasks in the office.

The fair saw a steady stream of students throughout the day.

“A lot of them are kind of wary about it because of their major or finances or they don’t really know how the process works,” Bell said. “I’m here to answer any questions and give them a little bit of encouragement.”

Jadyn Mullen attended the event because she’s interested in experiencing new things. She hasn’t traveled much yet, but believes studying abroad would be the perfect opportunity to do so. Of the available programs, she said she was intrigued by potentially traveling to Spain. As a nursing student, she often encounters patients who speak Spanish and felt immersing herself in a Spanish-speaking country would help improve her bedside manner.

“I just want to learn some more Spanish so that I’m able to care for them effectively,” she said.

Aside from improving her language skills, Mullen is interested in seeing how another culture lives day to day.

“I just want to live like them, see how they’re living and things that they do on a daily basis and be more educated,” she said.

Keewon Owens, a computer science major, said he attended the fair because he believes in taking advantage of available opportunities.

“I’ve always wanted to go outside of the U.S. and explore,” Owens said. “I did want to take the right step in the right direction, take the first step to this kind of opportunity.”

The Art History and Games in Italy program led by Associate Teaching Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Design Maureen Quigley caught Owens’ eye. The summer program will take students to historic Italian cities such as Rome, Pompeii, Florence and Venice. During the trip, students will discuss the role of “real” art and history in board and video games and design their own role-playing game.

“I am into video games, and I have taken game design into consideration with me being a computer science major,” Owens said.

He added that he’s always wanted to go to Italy, so a program that improves his resume as a computer science major in Italy is a win-win for him.

Like Mullen, Owens also wants to experience life in a different country.

“I would like to see how things work, how it differs from the U.S.,” Owens said. “I do want to see how other cultures are – try different foods, meet different people and have connections with people, just learn and experience more.”

Burk Krohe

Burk Krohe