Campus meets to discuss study abroad

Campus meets to discuss study abroad

Hannah Hippensteel, Features Reporter

On Oct. 20 and 21, Winona State University hosted virtual sessions to share information on prospective summer and fall semester study abroad trips.

Although it is unclear if and when international trips will resume for students through the university, the two-day string of virtual events were meant to help students gain information about partners and programs.

The sessions also featured drop-in advising sessions and specific international partners linked to Winona State, as well as faculty-led travel study programs.

Dr. Jana Craft, professor in both the business administration and human resource management departments, had a virtual Q&A with students who displayed an interest in the Sustainable Business Scotland trip in summer 2021.

Craft said her first international trip with the university was in Paris in 2017 where she participated in a faculty-led program on how to teach classes abroad.

Then, in the summer of 2018, she led the first group of students in the Scotland ‘Going Green’ trip.

Craft also said she attended a merger of business admin, nursing students and professors in a blend of activities set up for students interested in the business of healthcare.

According to Craft, there are no courses required to attend the “Going Green: Sustainable Business & Culture in Scotland [trip]”.

The trip also falls within goal nine of Winona State’s general education courses, which covers ethic and civic responsibility.

“This trip will provide the flavor of travel study,” Craft said.

Craft said she developed the trip because she saw a need for more sustainability in the business administration curriculum.

In her own life, Craft says she has seen the ripple effect international travel has had on those around her.

“I hope students get to have those life-changing learning experiences. It’s our duty as professors to provide those. Doing things scared is still doing them,” Craft said.

Additionally, representative partners from SAI, Studio Arts College International (SACI) and University of Wisconsin-Platteville had presentations throughout.

Clau Castaneda, university relations associate for SAI, manages students from upper-Midwest schools who are interested in international travel.

He focused on programs that will run in Italian cities, Florence and Sorrento, during the virtual study abroad sessions.

“The pandemic has led us to rethink engagement,” Castaneda said. “It’s been a lot more preparation for presentations to rethink and pivot, but anything that is a challenge presents a time for change and creativity.”

Castaneda also mentioned the virtual nature of the informational sessions was his first interaction with Winona State students as in-person international fairs have previously caused scheduling conflicts for his attendance.

In a post-COVID-19 world, Castaneda said he hopes to see a boom of students engaging in international studies.

“I hope people also continue to consider virtual options for study abroad,” Castaneda said.

Rory Sommers from SACI spoke to programs for art students in Florence.

“The trip combines design and history. Students can come to the art center of the world and be immersed in foreign and artistic culture,” Sommers said.

She mentioned that an art portfolio is not a requirement for international study and that the programs are open to all majors.
Prior to COVID, Sommers said she was on the road from Monday through Friday for 13 weeks and visited between 55 to 65 college campuses during that time.

Of what she hopes a post-COVID world in her job will look like, Sommers said she is excited.

“I’m eager to get back on the road and meet with really passionate students,” Sommers said.

Although Caitie Chiaverotti represents UW-Platteville, the programs at the Wisconsin university do still coincide with international education at Winona State.

Chiaverotti’s role as interim education abroad specialist includes program creation and checking in with students in their application process and when they are abroad.

She said the transition between creating in-person and virtual presentations has been a “whirlwind.”

“Although the participation was low for the information drop-in session, I want people to know we offer programs to fit a wide set of needs and goals. And we do it with adaptability,” Chiaverotti said.

Wesley Holm, fourth-year psychology major who has studied abroad in the past, mentioned the importance of international study for college students as someone who previously completed international travel with Winona State.

“There is a sense of personal awareness and cultural relativity that cannot be taught in any classroom and must be experienced in continents, countries and cities we are not accustomed to,” Holm said.

He also said that he thinks the pandemic has shifted the accessibility of these experiences.

“I think it’s important to consider the risk of the studying student and of the place they plan to go and make sure all parties are comfortable and safe consistently,” Holm said. “International travel does not need to end. It just needs to be much more careful, methodical and communicative. If anything, this expanded awareness of health is better for the safety of all.”

Susan Niedzwiecki-Pham, director of study abroad at Winona State, said that international travel should still be considered.

“Even though we can’t go abroad right now, it’s a great time to be researching the multitude of study abroad options, planning and applying to that perfect program. When travel is safe again—and it will be eventually—you’ll be ready to go,” Niedzwiecki-Pham said.