Study Abroad students share advice, experiences

Joey Rasich rides a camel while on a Study Abroad outing in Morocco (Photo courtesy of Joey Rasich)

It is 6 p.m. on a Wednesday and Joey Rasich occupies a table inside Park Library’s Java City. It’s dinnertime on campus, but there is a lull inside the normally bustling coffee shop. Rasich, a junior from Geneva, Ill., is smiling as he gushes about his recent experience with Central Michigan University’s Study Abroad Program.

“They should take advantage of the opportunity,” Rasich said about students thinking about studying abroad. “It might not fit your plan, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Rasich spent the entirety of his spring semester in Sevilla, Spain in 2010. During his 16-week stay, the 20-year-old International Business student saw more than just the classrooms and streets of Sevilla.

“We only spent about every other weekend in Sevilla,” Rasich said.

Among the weekends spent outside the city, Rasich said he visited Portugal on a school-sponsored trip; Paris to visit a friend; Madrid to watch a tennis tournament; and even had the chance to catch a ferry to Morocco.

Rasich enjoyed his time abroad so much that upon his return to Mount Pleasant, Rasich began working in the Study Abroad Programs office in Ronan Hall. In the office, he meets with fellow students to determine what programs will work best with their majors and lifestyles. He also schedules and presents informational sessions in classes around campus, in which he lays out the amount of scholarships and payment options available to students.

“Studying abroad is always an option,” Rasich said.

This summer, Rasich will embark on his second excursion abroad in Quito, Ecuador and is even considering deferring his graduation to study in Chengdu, China.

Nicole Shackelford, a Mount Pleasant senior preparing for graduation, shares Rasich’s enthusiasm for CMU’s Study Abroad program, which currently boasts more than 100 programs housed in more than 30 countries around the globe. Shackelford earned 12 credits toward her second major in German after spending a semester in Bielefeld, Germany.

“Taking the bus to Italy or Cologne was really cheap,” Shackelford said. “I didn’t miss my car at all.”

Shackelford, who only took three classes in German before her trip, said that the language barrier was very intimidating at first. However, like Rasich, she chose to stay with a host family, which gave her more opportunities to interact with native German speakers.

This constant interaction made it easier to live more like the locals, Shackelford said. In Bielefeld, home to around 330,000 residents, social life was much more different than in Mount Pleasant.

“A lot of the clubs stay open much later, but drinking is much more laidback and not so much about binging,” Shackelford said. “Once, we left the club and it was light out.”

Social life was only a small portion of Shackelford’s stay though. On other afternoons, she said exploring the city was a good time. Some days she would walk with her host family, but other times she enjoyed going it alone. After about a month in Bielefeld, Shackelford recalls having felt more at-home.

“I remember I started dreaming in German. That’s when I really started to feel comfortable.”

To guide future study abroad students in their journeys, the 23-year-old Broadcast and German major recommends that making friends as key to a successful experience.

“Meeting people will completely change your experience, just like the friends you meet here,” Shackelford said. “Always go with the invites.”