MARQUETTE - For students going to college, much of the experience is defined by classes, homework and projects. But most find it's a chance to try new experiences - including what might be one of the most lasting and most changing experiences, studying abroad.
The decision to study abroad, however, takes planning and thought, which can lead to a lifetime of memories.
To help students through the decisions that need to be made and to help start them on the path to study abroad, Northern Michigan University hosts two study abroad fairs each year.
Northern Michigan University’s study abroad fair occurs twice a year, giving students interested in studying, working or volunteering in other countries a chance to explore their options. Here, students circulate around various booths and information tables on the many programs offered at NMU Tuesday. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"If they don't know what they want to do or where they want to go, they should start planning about a year ahead of time," said MIriam Moeller, International Programs Specialist at NMU.
No matter what or where students wish to study, even if they want to work or volunteer abroad, NMU offers a variety of programs with different focuses to help each student meet their goals.
For some programs, NMU has partnered with organizations such as the the Council for International Education Exchange or the College Consortium for International Studies. Partner programs organize the entire study abroad experience from housing to the host university classes to excursions in the host country.
If students are looking for a more language immersion program, in which they are directly enrolled in the host university, NMU also organizes exchange programs in which students from NMU attend the host university and students from that university attend NMU.
Other programs offer the ability to fulfill student teaching requirements abroad or allow students to volunteer internationally.
For students who don't have time in their school schedules to do a semester or year of study abroad, like many nursing students, NMU also offers several faculty-led programs during the summer, which allow students to travel in a group from NMU to experience international travel for two weeks to over a month.
"We do them all over the world," Moeller said.
One such program is a month spent studying in Vienna, Austria.
"It teaches you architecture, history, art, food, everything," said NMU senior German studies major Danielle Belfry, who participated in the trip this summer and plans to do so again next year. "It's only in the very beginning of the summer, so people can go back to do their work or summer classes if they need. It's an amazing trip."
Faculty-lead programs also allow students to volunteer or participate in science related fields, depending on the program.
Although students typically sign up for study abroad programs the semester before departing (signup deadlines are usually mid-October and mid-April each year) starting early to explore study abroad options, even in high school or your freshman year of college, doesn't hurt.
"I want to go to Africa, but I don't really know where," said NMU freshman Ellen Feenstra, a nursing student hoping to participate in a summer study abroad.
Feenstra and fellow freshman Brooke Carsey, a speech pathology major hoping to study in Australia, both said they attended NMU's study abroad fair this week looking for more information on keeping on track with their studies at NMU and funding their study abroad programs.
"This will not delay your graduation unless you want it to," Moeller said, adding credits earned during a study abroad transfer to NMU to contribute to a student's major or minor.
For those who missed the study abroad fair, NMU also hosts study abroad general sessions, with two scheduled for October and two for November, which give out the same information as the fair but in a more condensed format.
For more information on NMU's study abroad options, visit www.nmu.edu/ipo. The university's International Program office also maintains a Northern Michigan University International Facebook page.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.