Pick your continent

Courtney McLaughlin

Courtney McLaughlin '08 of Cumberland, R.I., attends the University of South Pacific
in Fiji this spring.

Joanna deBie

Joanna DeBie ’07 of Harrison, Maine, is studying at Yonsei University in South Korea this semester.

Marco Crestani

Marco Crestani of Italy studied on campus during the fall semester.

Matt Salch

While studying in Germany, Mathew Salch '07 traveled to Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris and parts of the Netherlands.

Magdalena Melcher

Magdalena Melcher studied at Saint Joseph’s last fall so she could become an English teacher in her native Germany.

More Saint Joseph's students are plugging into the International Student Exchange Program network at 254 colleges in 36 countries

Imagine you stand among strangers, surrounded by cathedrals and castles dating back to the Middle Ages. You look up and see a black, red and yellow flag, you don't know how many euros equal a dollar and you can't fathom how to ask for directions in this clipped-sounding language. Now imagine a month later: you've adapted to the Gothic archways, the strangers have become friends, you know "drehen Sie sich nach links" means "turn left" in German, and that one euro equals $1.18.

What could this experience be? It's study abroad through the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP).

Founded in 1979, ISEP is a network of 254 colleges in 36 countries on six continents, sending students everywhere from Argentina to South Africa. Kim MacDonald, coordinator of the Saint Joseph's College ISEP program, encourages students to embrace study abroad because it's a chance to discover "who you are as a person, to learn about other cultures, and also to learn more about your own culture."

MacDonald studied abroad for one year in Dijon, France, and later received a teaching fellowship to return to Cambrai, France, where she was an English teaching assistant for one year. She says study abroad can boost your confidence because you realize that you are able to meet the challenge of living in a completely new environment. "If you want to do it, you can do it," she says, adding that her office in Alfond Hall is set up to help students interested in pursuing study abroad.

According to MacDonald, students who study abroad make friends from around the world. Lindsey Alexander of Waldoboro, Maine, a senior International Business major who spent four months in Denmark during the fall semester, agrees. "Everyone is interested in everyone else," she says of her experience living in a dorm-style building with students from Denmark, Germany, Poland, Italy, France and China.

Although the Danish people were very welcoming and Alexander's classes were taught in English, she says working on group projects in class was difficult because most of the students in her group were French-speaking. But her advice to anyone contemplating study abroad is: "Do it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience... I've never heard anyone say it was a bad experience. You're not there alone, other internationals are there and they are experiencing the same thing."

Besides all the other advantages of study abroad, MacDonald believes future employers look highly on those who have studied abroad. Why? "Because it demonstrates that a person is willing to take risks and can understand other cultures," she says. "And they like that the person can bring back that knowledge to the workplace."

Two years ago, through all study abroad programs, a total of 191,321 American students went overseas, and interest in the program is on the rise at Saint Joseph's.

Mathew Salch '07 of Caribou, Maine, studied abroad for five months in Germany last semester. Before he left, he studied the language through independent study with President David House, who had studied abroad in Berlin as a college student (see In praise of study abroad). Because of his German heritage, "I felt a real connection to German," Salch says.

Living with three roommates from Russia, China and Jordan, he took German language classes while attending Dortmund University. After graduation, Salch, a psychology major, plans to spend a year abroad in Germany, teaching English to German children. "I wouldn't say that I'm fluent, but my skills are greatly improved," he notes.

Of study abroad, he says, "Definitely, do it. Don't let inhibitions slow you down. You learn so much about yourself and other cultures."

How international exchange works

The ISEP program is set up like this: If a student from Saint Joseph's College wants to study in France, that student pays their SJC tuition and room/board as they normally would, but then has the opportunity to enroll in any participating ISEP school. If a student receives a scholarship or federal aid, these benefits still apply.

Some majors have more flexibility than others in terms of study abroad, so it's wise to check with your advisor to make sure you can fulfill graduation requirements by studying abroad. However, MacDonald says summer study or other arrangements can make study abroad a possibility even if a particular major has limitations on electives. Your advisor can also help to make sure that all your credits are transferable, so no extra courses need to be taken.

As far as cost, students pay for air fare, health insurance and money for additional expenses. There is no additional cost for tuition or room/ board.

For more information visit the ISEP web site at www.isep.com, contact Kim MacDonald at kmacdonald@sjcme.edu or call 207-893-7561.

by Matthew Pascarella '06