Study Abroad: "It was the best experience of my life"
Study Abroad - Denmark

Molly Przybysz spent a semester studying in Australia and tells how learning with other students from around the globe changed her view of the world.

Chris Trumph spent three weeks last summer studying in Denmark. He faced his fears, gained confidence and grew as a person, he says.

Chris went for three weeks, Molly for three months, but both students say their study abroad experiences changed their lives.

“I can’t imagine not having done this,” says Molly, an Ada senior who tells of working on a group project with students from Russia and Sweden. She studied at the International College of Management in Sydney in the spring of 2011, taking classes in hospitality and event management, consumer behavior, and marketing.

“People from different cultures bring different things to the classroom,” Molly says. “I learned to be more tolerant. I learned to relax more. I’m pretty type A — go, go, go. I learned to relax and enjoy what's going on around me.”

Between studies, she learned how to surf, ate kangaroo and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.

Study abroad experiences come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s one to fit every student, says Dianne De Salvo, director of Study Abroad, which sent 534 CMU students to other countries for study last year.

Students can choose from more than 150 programs in more than 40 countries and earn CMU credit at the same time.

Some parents are apprehensive about sending their child overseas, De Salvo says.

“I’ve had parents say, ‘I’ve never traveled, so this is all new to me.’” She reassures them that students get extensive orientation before they go, from how to exchange money to safety issues to how to adjust to a new culture.

Parents’ top worry? The cost, De Salvo says. The good news is there’s a program to fit every budget. Yes, airfare to Australia is $2,500 and a high-end apparel design program in Milan isn’t cheap.

But some programs cost the same as a semester on campus at CMU, she says.

Students can apply most financial aid to study abroad costs, De Salvo says. Additional aid may be available, too, typically in the form of loans. National scholarships also are available, and students have been awarded as much as $5,000. Scholarships also are available from the Study Abroad office as well as individual CMU colleges and programs.

“Some parents say, ‘After they graduate, then they can travel,’” De Salvo says. “They don't realize all the skills their child will acquire. In this competitive job market, study abroad is impressive on a r résumée resumsume.”

Study abroad is appealing to graduate schools and law schools, too, she says.

“It tells them you’re adventurous and you’re curious,” De Salvo says. “It sets you apart.

“Students often say that when they go to a job interview, the first thing the interviewer says is, ‘I see you studied abroad. What was that like?’ It helps you avoid the dreaded, ‘So, tell me about yourself,’” she says with a laugh.

“With the diversity of the U.S., to be able to deal with different cultures — these are things that employers value.”

Study abroad gives students opportunities to take courses that don't exist on campus, De Salvo says. Marine biology in Australia. Theater in Ireland.

“And for foreign language students, living the language 24-7 is the best way to learn.”

Students return changed — for the better.

“I had a parent tell me, ‘I sent my young daughter to study abroad, and she came back this worldly young woman. It was so noticeable,’ De Salvo says.

“Usually it's the longest time a student has spent away from home,” De Salvo says. “They have to be more independent, figure things out. They come back feeling changed, in a really nice way. They really learn about themselves.”

Chris did.

“Three weeks seems like a short amount of time, but it was enough to explore the culture, get out of my shell a little bit,” says Chris, a Madison Heights junior pursuing a double major in psychology and neuroscience. “You have no idea where things are, you’re in an environment you’re not used to — it boosted my confidence.”

He studied psychology at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen.

“It was the best experience of my life,” he says. “It makes you grow up faster, makes you realize what's important in life.”

He’ll be applying to medical schools soon and thinks it will boost his chances.

He notes it’s easier to go abroad in college than after.

“Here, you can get financial help, and you have the Study Abroad office to help you with everything,” Chris says. “And it’s a prime stage of your life when you’re developing your sense of self, your identity. Things you had fears about — this helps you face them.”

For more information about Study Abroad, visit