A Whole New World: Clark Offers Chance To Study Abroad

Ever dream of visiting other countries? You could explore London’s Underground, shop in Spain or snag a snapshot of the Louvre. If Europe’s not your fancy, try the other direction: There’s kimchi in South Korea or fresh sushi in Japan.

For some Clark students, travelling the world isn’t just a dream.

Each quarter, through the Study Abroad Program, students travel to different cities around the world. According to International Student Recruitment & Outreach manager Jody Shulnak, Washington has created a partnership with all community colleges in the state to give students options for traveling abroad.

Shulnak said the consortium uses several methods to choose the programs and locations that are offered quarterly to students. One method uses the Institute for International Education, which releases an annual report showing the most popular cities where students wish to study. Another method, she said, is offering specific programs linked to the languages  taught at each school.

Now, you may be asking yourself: Why would I want to spend money to put myself through the sheer agony of culture shock?  

“It’s a transformative experience,” Shulnak said. “You gain more self-confidence and global awareness along with new skills.” She said she hears most feedback on the valuable relationships students made with their classmates and local community members from the places they stay.

In an email interview, student Cristine Cruz described her four-week trip to Alajuela Province, Costa Rica, last summer.

“My time abroad was an experience of a lifetime,” Cruz said. “It was a huge step out of my comfort zone. I met so many new and different people and did things I’ve never thought I’d be able to do, like ziplining and whitewater rafting.”

Cruz said the locals were extremely friendly and — despite a language barrier — helped her navigate the area.

“I’m more understanding now, with people in America who struggle with English,” Cruz said.

Students often worry about the cost of going abroad, but Shulnak said financial aid covers some of the costs within Clark’s programs. The programs range from shorter three-week trips to full 10-week trips. Accounting for all expenses, she said trips can cost around $10,000.

According to Fox News Business, a semester abroad can cost up to $17,785. However, many of Clark’s programs are much cheaper than the national average since they are offered for shorter periods of time.  

Students aren’t the only ones who take advantage of this program; professors and instructors travel as well. Instructors can enter the program to teach their field abroad, which is exactly what English professor Tobias Peterson did last year.

During his college experience, Peterson was a study abroad student who visited Mexico, Spain and Morocco. Hoping to continue his journey as a professor, he spent last fall quarter teaching in England.

“It’s different when you can live sort of cheek by jaw with the locals and develop a sense of the place rather than just two days here, two days there,” Peterson said with a smile. “London, to me, is a highlight because it’s the seat of so much history.”

Peterson said he advises students to plan and research the opportunities for funding to give them the cultural experience.

“It should be mandatory,” Peterson said. “I think we would probably have a lot less difficulty globally if we all knew each other more personably, but I can’t pay for it. I wish I could write everybody a check and send everybody, but that isn’t the case.”

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