Study abroad, one of MSU’s signature programs

01-26-2005

Study Abroad has long been one of Michigan State’s signature programs, consistently among the best, not just the largest, in the nation.

It really has been woven into the fabric of MSU’s culture over the years, so I was a little surprised when someone asked me recently whether I’d continue MSU’s strong emphasis on study abroad. The answer is yes, and more.

Study abroad is a fundamental part of MSU being a truly global institution, of being among the top 100 research universities in the world. And perhaps most important, we have an obligation to prepare our students to live and work in a world where international experience and understanding are no longer considered merely advantages, but have become the expectation for innovators and leaders.

When I arrived at MSU in 1970, there were several study abroad programs available, but they were usually something extra that a student might do beyond a normal course of study. Today, MSU’s programs are integrated into curricula across the campus and have become an essential part of the MSU experience for every undergraduate. We like to say that it’s not a matter of IF you’ll study abroad, it’s a matter of WHEN.

Twice a year, the Office of Study Abroad hosts a fair at the MSU Student Union. It offers “one-stop shopping” with more than a hundred displays featuring a broad array of study abroad programs. You can chat with faculty program leaders, past program participants, academic advisers and representatives from the financial aid office. And everyone in the Office of Study Abroad—from student workers to the director—are there and happy to answer your questions. You can spot them by their green shirts with the MSU study abroad logo.

The commitment of the faculty members who organize and lead the programs can really be contagious. Twelve colleges participate and there are some 200 programs on all seven continents to choose from. Exhibitors come from around the world—places like Mexico, Australia and Thailand—to proudly showcase “their” programs.

As one returning student said, “What’s important in considering whether or not to go abroad is not so much the challenges one might face in doing so, but the attitude with which one approaches those challenges.” Study abroad can be an important and life-changing experience, but also can make earning academic credit seem romantic, even an adventure.

I also want to encourage graduate students to consider study abroad opportunities. As the faculty of the future and the future leaders of our corporations and communities it is imperative that if you did not have the opportunity to study abroad as an undergraduate, you do so now.

So I urge you all to stop by the Study Abroad Fair from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, and take the first steps toward making that adventure a reality. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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