The first Study Abroad Fellowship workshop of the year took place on Aug. 28 in the Student Union and included a diverse panel of three previous and current students who had experiences studying abroad. The fellowship, although sparsely attended, provided a wealth of information on the different options UMKC students have when considering studying, teaching or researching in another country.
The panel was introduced by Linna Place, director of International Academic Programs, and included students from different disciplines.
The students included Julia Bates, a German history major with an art history minor. She was one of the two student speakers that received a Fulbright Fellowship, the most prominent national fellowship. Bates utilized her fellowship in order to teach English in a German high school. Although she discussed the vital hands-on experience that a teaching assistantship in Germany offered, Bates also pointed out the life lessons that can be learned through venturing abroad.
“I gained a sense of independence dealing with things like how to find a hostel,” Bates said.
Bates also spoke about the special friendships that can be gained through living and working in a different country. She built a strong bond with another Fulbright student while in Germany. Together, they formed a blue-grass band, The Matchsellers, which will be performing on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Riot Room.
Another Fulbright fellowship recipient, Sa Shea Gaston, realized her interest in Mexico during a university trip to Xalapa in 2010. She used her fellowship to travel back to Mexico and teach, exploring her passion for the Spanish language as well as her goal of teaching.
“It is so important to get different perspectives on teaching, especially for someone like me who is looking to go into ESL (English as a second language),” Gaston said.
Gaston also talked about how it is helpful to leave behind comfort zones.
“I learned to adapt and work with what I had,” Gaston said. “I learned to appreciate the little things more, like running water.”
Elliott Goff, a junior mechanical engineering major, showed that it is not impossible for someone with an often strenuous and time-consuming major to take part in performing research abroad. He is the first UMKC student to receive the DAAD/RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) scholarship which took him to Berlin during the summer of 2012. Goff spoke about how the majority of his research was performed in a laboratory setting, which gave him immense experience within the bio-medical engineering field, the same field he aspires to make into a future career. The laboratory experience was the most useful to Goff simply because it introduced him to the “tools of the trade”.
“I spent a lot of my time learning how to use new technology in the lab,” Goff said.
Although laboratory experience was essential, Goff also mentioned time outside of research spent exploring the city as the most meaningful to him.
“Go do it, go apply, [studying abroad was] by far the best experience I’ve had in college or my life so far,” Goff said.
The impressive stories that the panel had to offer would not have been possible without the help of the dedicated staff on campus. Place emphasized how the intricate application process for the fellowships are not only for the purpose of applying, but also give students experience in useful skills, such as personal statement writing and obtaining letters of recommendation. When speaking about the process and the importance of professor-student relationships, Place spoke about the advantage UMKC students have in this arena.
“This is a very student-focused university – people that write these letters of recommendation actually care,” Place said.
To find out more about study abroad fellowships and scholarships, watch for two more workshops on Sept. 10-11, discussing the Boren fellowship, which focuses on language majors, and the Fulbright fellowship. On Sept. 12, the Study Abroad Fair will be held for anyone interested in exploring other ways to make studying abroad a priority within their college experience.