Marshall Opens Studies Abroad to Students

Lucy Bell and Destiney Dingess

After taking it upon herself to experience more than her traditional collegiate path, one graphic design student sought out scholarships to study abroad now that many pandemic restrictions have lifted. 

Marshall senior Cassandra Bhagroo spent last spring studying industrial art at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea. After a semester away and being the only American student in the program, she said her outlook not only on South Korea but also on her own culture has completely changed. 

“Going abroad definitely shook my perceptions of how I saw the world,” Bhagroo said. “Everyone can have a very ethnocentric point of view about how it’s just a natural thing. You grow up, you see the world based on how others around you are, and when you are like that for 18 plus years, that becomes a part of who you are.” 

Bhagroo’s report was one of many such stories heard last week by those who stopped by a travel fair assembled on Memorial Student Center Plaza by the Office of Study Abroad. After a two-year Covid-mandated hiatus from study abroad trips, various programs and departments filled booths to report they are back open for business. The university offers several study abroad opportunities all over the globe, ranging from semester-long stays to two-week trips, that students are encouraged to consider according to Jamie Platt, school of art and design gallery director. 

“The university knows that when students study abroad, it changes them and it gives them a broader sense of the world and the interconnectedness of the world,” Platt said. “And so, they understand how important it is to have that kind of cultural interchange and also just in terms of someone’s personal growth. So, they know that it’s important and they definitely encourage it.” 

Students gain experience and develop their work as well as themselves in a way that only study abroad programs can provide Platt said, adding, “It’s pretty incredible if you think about the fact that this artwork could only exist having had that experience.” 

Students may study at more than 250 sites in more than 40 countries worldwide, according to program coordinator, Tyler Sharp, of the Office of Study Abroad.  

“We offer exchange programs, faculty-led programs and affiliate programs through independent study abroad organizations,” he said.   

Interested students can get started by visiting Sharp’s office, located in Old Main, to learn about upcoming deadlines for winter, spring and summer programs. 

Among those hosting booths at the fair was the Kentucky Institute for International Studies, which brings together professors and students from 25 universities, including Marshall, in a consortium. 

“We can go to many places,” said Dr. Shawn Schulenberg, a Marshall political science professor who directs the KIIS Argentina study abroad program. “There are about three summer programs next year and one winter program with Marshall professors.”  

The KIIS model is non-English-speaking countries, but “unless it’s a language program, professors teach all of the courses in English, so I don’t expect any language experience on the program,” Schulenberg said. 

Going to a non-English-speaking country far away from home might be daunting. Still, the KIIS program and program directors hold a four hour on-site pre-departure orientation that covers how telephones work, how electricity works, how students should dress and how to avoid crime in their specific destination.  

Among the benefits to studying abroad, students can knock out their general education credits while studying in these beautiful countries according to Zelibeth Rivas, a Marshall professor of Japanese. 

In addition, companies increasingly are looking for global competence according to Rivas, which means being able to communicate with a variety of people and to understand what the trends are in lots of different countries.  

“What I tell my students when we go abroad is to get lost,” Rivas said, “but to get lost safely. Get lost with a friend. Get lost in a marketplace that is about 10 blocks long. I want you to find these things. Get lost and learn something.” 

Rivas added that traveling students are briefed beforehand and afterwards to help them understand what they have learned and to deal with some of the negatives of traveling, such as homesickness and anxiety.  

“When I start seeing homesickness, I take them out for meals,” Rivas said. “We’ll find a Wendy’s and dunk some French fries in Frosties. We will figure it out.” 

The study abroad programs also offer counseling for students who dismiss the idea of studying abroad for financial reasons. 

“Every student should at least go talk to a financial aid counselor and the study abroad advisor about ways that it’s possible,” Schulenberg said.  

A student can seek a federal Pell Grant or can apply for the Prestigious Gilman Scholarship, which can pay for 100% of the travel. 

“Students shouldn’t just think they can’t do it without investigating a little bit,” Schulenberg said.