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First round of study abroad trips yields positive results

(From left) Kirstin Johnson, Jamila Burton, Nakiesha Robinson and Roshonda McCowan jump in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photo courtesy of Roshonda McCowan.

A new study abroad program offers engineering students at the University of Missouri a chance to travel to a variety of destinations and earn college credit while visiting another country.

The first trips for Mizzou Engineering’s study abroad program took off over the summer, and students who took advantage of the opportunity are happy they did so.

Tia Berg, a senior mechanical and aerospace engineering major, said all it took to interest her was an email.

“I remember waiting for the informational session,” said Berg, who spent a little more than a week on the trip to London and Manchester, England and Paris. “My family travels a lot, but usually around North America or South America. I’d never been to Europe.”

Tia Berg stands in front of the Houses of Parliament in London. Photo courtesy of Tia Berg

Mizzou Engineering’s Study Abroad Director JR Swanegan said this year, the college is reaching out to engineering students by making presentations, setting up informational tables and sending out short emails — just like the one that captivated Berg. He said the response received about this academic year’s programs has generated “significant” interest. In fact, several students have already indicated interest in the trips offered for 2012.

“I’ve talked to student ambassadors and several FIGs [Freshman Interest Groups],” Swanegan said. “With the email blasts and individualized group presentations, we’ve already had about 80 students show interest.”

Participating students’ experiences will differ depending on the trip. Some trips, such as the London/Manchester/Paris trip — for which they will receive three hours of humanities credit — feature cultural immersion opportunities. Students not only receive an introduction to countries’ engineering higher education and companies, but also take in the history, culture and sites in that specific county.

In the upcoming trip to Egypt, for example, students will study the history of engineering, in this case, while examining the Great Pyramids.

The London/Manchester/Paris trip included site tours and meetings with leaders and representatives from international companies, such as Boeing, Jaguar, Land Rover, Cerner and AstraZeneca.

“We had a pretty structured schedule: five plant tours, but we got to do a lot of sightseeing, too,” Berg said.

On another of last summer’s trips, students took part in a program pilot for a two-week program at Kiev Polytechnic Institute (KPI) in Kiev, Ukraine.

Senior chemical engineering student Morgan Elliott was one of the students who took part in the excursion to KPI. She said she didn’t have any expectations for the trip before going, but that made some aspects much more interesting.

“I did not previously know much about Ukrainian culture or their infrastructure, so it was all new and exciting stuff,” Elliott said.

The Kiev, Ukraine, program offers three hours of engineering technical credit because students spend much of their time attending a two-week summer school program at KPI.

Three MU Engineering students also traveled to Shanghai, China, over the summer for two months. Also a pilot program, Swanegan said the students took part in research opportunities abroad.

Next year’s trips include excursions to Italy, Egypt, Ireland, Ukraine, Czech Republic and South Africa. Each trip is limited to about 30 students and takes place during the late spring or summer. The trip to Ireland will take place over spring break.

Additionally, a trip to Thailand is in the works that will occur over winter break. Swanegan said if that trip goes well, another Thailand trip might be scheduled for next winter intersession.

Destinations will be offered either annually or on a rotating basis, details are still being worked out in the emerging program but Swanegan also said other destinations are being planned, including trips to Spain, China and Germany.

Course structure

For most of the short-term study abroad a six- to eight-week pre-trip course applies. Berg said her pre-trip course before going to London/Manchester/Paris was one night a week for eight weeks. These classes are designed to include much of the classroom work — especially that of preparing students for the trip — that couldn’t otherwise be taught during the trip.

The course counts as three hours of either engineering humanities or technical credit, depending on the program.

Find out more

Informational meetings were held throughout September and continue into October. The deadline to register for these trips is Nov. 1, except for the trips to Ukraine and Czech Republic, which is March 1, 2012. Application forms may be downloaded at engineering.missouri.edu/abroad.

The study abroad program would welcome financial support from alumni and companies that could help offset some of the costs of this experience.  Full scholarships and/or contributions can be made to the travel abroad program by sending a check or going online to designate a gift to the College of Engineering at “Giving to MU.” For more information, please contact Swanegan at 573-884-8508.

What they thought…

Read more on what students who participated in the trip to London/Manchester/Paris thought of their experiences here.