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Grants help York College students gain career-boosting global perspective

April 08, 2019
YCP student Jessika Roberts sits with students during study abroad experience

Expanding your worldview is exciting and can help prepare for a career, but why spend the money to study abroad when you can get all that kind of information on your phone?

To Jessika Roberts, the answer is simple.

“Because nothing compares to being there,” says the York College of Pennsylvania senior, who recently returned from a semester in Denmark, England, and South Africa. “Watching a video or reading a book, you only see what others write and say.”

Now, York College has made the decision to study abroad even easier: by making it more affordable.

Funding is a boon

While study abroad opportunities existed at York College previously, three years ago the College brought in Dr. Annie Nguyen as Coordinator of Study Abroad.

She secured financial help through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), a national organization that helps fund studies abroad.

“I made a presentation at the CIEE annual conference and entered York College in a drawing to get our original grant,” Dr. Nguyen says. “Since then, we’ve had to show we deserve to keep getting the funding.”

The quality of York College applicants and how the school chooses its recipients has kept that grant coming.

“Financially, this is a large factor,” Dr. Nguyen says. “Study abroad costs vary, but the CIEE program we participate in – the Open Campus Program – requires study in at least two, and up to three, different locations, which can be expensive.”

Most grants are $6,000 for study at two or three locations.

Jessika says she probably would not have studied abroad without financial help.

“I had looked elsewhere, but had not been successful,” she says, “and had given up.”

Gaining a global perspective

Whatever your career might be, you must interact with people from different perspectives, Dr. Nguyen believes.

“This creates a better understanding of how others feel about issues and allows students to better deal with these things in both their personal and professional lives,” she says.

Jessika, a Psychology major with minors in Sociology and Biology, agrees.

“My curriculum abroad wasn’t directly tied to my major and minors, but it better defined what I want to do to after college,” she says. “Learning others’ perspectives pushed me to learn to communicate in different ways to different people.”

Social justice is important to Jessika. She learned language can perpetuate biases, even unconsciously.

“A student with me at all three locations had a problematic way of speaking about certain groups. We became friends, and I finally got the confidence to talk to him about this without losing his friendship,” she says. “It was a great experience taking a negative, presenting a solution, and getting a positive response. I learned I can’t let language hinder my understanding of another person.”

Students grow abroad

Dr. Nguyen says she saw growth in Jessika

“She didn’t realize how much she had changed until she got back,” she says. “The differences in how she approaches people and empathizes will help her in psychology and connecting people.”

Jessika is actively involved with on-campus issues and is using her experience seeing how people in different countries and cultures handle problems to approach potential change in our own hometowns.

Dr. Nguyen says this desire stood out in Jessika’s grant application.

“Her focus was on why the locations fit what she wanted personally and professionally, to learn the language, culture, and her ancestry,” she says.

In London, Jessika studied media, gender and identity, why minority groups are oppressed, and how media focuses on differences and discrimination.

In South Africa, she connected with her ancestry from nearby Mozambique. Her class was on different ways people view contemporary art and how to respect these different views.

Living in a global society

York College stresses project-based learning, and while not all studies abroad fit this, they’re certainly similar.

Dr. Nguyen wants more opportunities for York College students, especially those who haven’t traveled and sees value regardless of major.

“I have Nursing and Engineering students asking about this,” she says. “These studies are experience-based, dealing with new cultures, getting around foreign cities, meeting international students, learning to deal with diversity and different perspectives.”

Jessika absolutely recommends this.

“It’s different when you see and experience things yourself,” she says. “You’ll get out of your comfort zone, but take it all in.”

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