Traveling Abroad in College: What Students Don’t Know They’re Missing

Beth Hinga, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Morningside College, has been to many countries. Egypt, Spain, France, Iceland. Ethiopia is her favorite, though.

“That’s where both of my kids are from,” explained Hinga. “My husband and I adopted them a few years ago. We made some incredible memories there.”

For Hinga, seeing these incredible countries that not many Americans get to see was life changing. Her job at Morningside, fittingly, is organizing trips for students to travel abroad for, what Morningside calls, their May term.

During this May term, students have the opportunity to go to another country for roughly 10 days to take in the culture of that country and take classes concerning that country. Unfortunately, not many students have the opportunity to add to their cultural resumé for either financial reasons, or simply because they have previous obligations.

“I couldn’t study abroad for my May term because I still had my softball season going,” complained Haley Rustvold, a senior at Morningside, “so I settled with taking my classes on campus.”

Softball, baseball, and track are three of the notable sports on campus that cannot take a May term in a different country because their seasons take place during May. Other sports also require their athletes, even though they might not be in season, to participate in mandatory practices and workouts during that month. All of this prevents students from gaining any cultural knowledge besides what they see in the media or at home.

Having to take classes in landlocked, modest Sioux City, Iowa hardly seems fair when students could take a plane to Panama to live and learn for a month. Equally unfair are the prices of traveling to those beautiful countries—they typically range in the couple of thousands of dollars. Although John Reynders, the president of Morningside College, isn’t shy in voicing his opinion that traveling abroad should be of little to no cost, it’s a battle that will more than likely not be won.

“Most students that have gotten to travel always come to me about how amazing it was to finally visit a place they’ve only seen or heard about online or on TV,” continued Hinga. “I wish every student got to experience that.” Hinga says that in her travels, she’s learned that traveling by herself or with one other person can be “a little intimidating.” That’s why she thinks students that travel abroad hardly discuss how frightened or anxious they were during their stay.

“Students get to travel with other classmates who are experiencing the same things they are all at the same time. Sometimes, the professor with them is too.” Hinga thinks that’s one reason why students talk about feeling so safe while in the strange country, so students shouldn’t use safety or fear as an excuse for not studying abroad.

Hinga wishes she could change circumstances so that every student on campus could, at the very least, travel to a state along the coasts of the United States. She admits that, although it’s not nearly the same as leaving the United States and learning about a completely new lifestyle, it’s better than nothing at all.

“That’s not to say that May term classes on campus aren’t valuable. But they don’t compete with hopping on a plane and embracing a whole new life.”

Traveling abroad for a May term helps students learn about and embrace previously little-understood cultures. They then spread their knowledge onto family friends. Yes, even in Sioux City, Iowa, the opportunity of going to a different country and discovering a new style of life knocks. Sadly, though, some students at Morningside College will never understand this sentiment.

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