Global Experiences, Local Impact
Global Experiences, Local Impact
By Samantha Whitehurst '13
If you were majoring in Language and Culture Studies with a concentration in French, where would you go to test your skills? Paige Weisman '20 chose Grenoble, France for her study abroad experience.
"I'd seen a lot of France, but I had never gotten to the French Alps," Weisman said. “I chose Grenoble for the mountain views and the proximity to Eastern Europe. It also wasn’t Paris, so I would be able to practice my French without all of the natives speaking English back to me.”
Melanie Wilezol ‘17 spent two semesters in Prague, Czech Republic in 2014 and 2015, taking mainly economics courses, introductory business classes like management and marketing and a Czech language course.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly Prague felt like home. I was a commuter at Stockton and, until I arrived in Prague, had never lived away from home. So naturally I was worried that I would get homesick; however, just the opposite happened,” Wilezol said. “I fell in love with the city and was not keen on the thought of coming back to the States! I was really blessed to develop a few close friendships while abroad and I think that’s ultimately why Prague felt like home.”
Every semester, anywhere from 13 to 110 Stockton students are immersed in new cultures while studying abroad. Stockton works with a variety of approved partners and has exchange programs in place with several partner institutions, including National Chiayi University in Taiwan, Universidad del Rosario in Colombia and Central Queensland University in Australia, where Andrew Barber ‘20 spent his semester abroad.
"Each day I woke up to all of the beautiful birds singing, and occasionally I would wake up to a gecko in my bedroom!" Barber recalled from his time in Australia in 2018. "The best part was my walk to class from my dorm to the academic halls, I would pass dozens of kangaroos."
Barber, a biology major, studied two biology courses while abroad, an at-some-distance course and a course called Outdoor Pursuits. "This class was specifically for international students where we learned to surf, canoe and sail," he said.
Bethany Young ‘18 helped create The Global Health Team, which was the first student-run club at Stockton to complete service trips internationally. The group travelled to Guatemala in Summer 2016 and the Dominican Republic during Summer 2017 helping in health care facilities.
“We picked locations based on the recommendations from the companies through which we were traveling,” Young said. “Our club focused on health disparities around the world and access to simple health care. We wanted sustainable and ethical locations that always had care being provided whether or not student volunteers participated, thus avoiding the ‘voluntourism’ trap to the best of our abilities.”
The trips presented learning curves which had a lasting impact on Young, influencing her current work as a nurse. She said she improved her communication skills while serving abroad from speaking to everyone she could.
“Even now as a nurse, I love learning about the people I am caring for, and I take the responsibility of providing their care very personally. Because of these trips, I found a passion for international travel that extends far beyond resorts and cruise ships. I found a serious passion for ethical decision-making and advocating for those who needed it.”
More than just course credit, education and service abroad allows students to become immersed in their host city’s culture, broadening their horizons and understanding of the world and the people around them. Students then bring these experiences home, helping to educate their communities and assist other Stockton students with planning their semesters.
Because of these trips, I found a passion for international travel that extends far beyond resorts and cruise ships. I found a serious passion for ethical decision-making and advocating for those who needed it.”
“Before I graduated, I served as an intern at the Office of Global Engagement. It was so great to be able to advise all of my friends and residents plan their dream study abroad experiences,” Weisman said. “My favorite part of my internship was planning a panel where Stockton students of color shared their international experiences in order to make study abroad less white in the future. The program was a finalist for the GoAbroad Innovation Awards.”
Barber also spent time helping fellow Ospreys plan their own semesters abroad. “My first semester back at Stockton I immediately wanted to help more students get the chance to study abroad and became a Global Engagement ambassador,” he said. “Soon after, I took over the position as program coordinator working in the Office of Global Engagement. I held workshops, met with students one-on-one, worked open houses all for the purpose of getting more students to have the opportunity to study abroad and have such an amazing experience like my own.”
Young used the knowledge gained while abroad to help educate other Stockton students about international service.
“My last semester at Stockton, I canceled the international trips for ethical reasons and rather had the school spend the resources on sending students to the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference held annually at Yale,” Young said. “This provided students a chance to interact with the biggest nonprofit organizations in global health and be involved in important conversations about what is currently happening around the world.”
Young recently completed Thomas Jefferson University’s one-year accelerated nursing program and plans to go back to school to become a midwife and practice maternal and child care on a more holistic scale.
“During my grad school years, I want to be a travel labor and delivery nurse and learn the differences in care, biases and techniques that change with each location I go,” she said.
Barber is currently working as a veterinary technician in an animal hospital and will begin another experience abroad: veterinary school at Ross University in St. Kitts.
Wilezol is working as an internal auditor and is in the process of wrapping up her CPA. She returned to Prague in October with her mom. “I was really glad she had the opportunity to see the beautiful city and visit my old neighborhoods and favorite cafes and restaurants,” she said. “Studying abroad was the best and most impactful experience I had during undergrad and I’m glad I got to share that piece of my life with her.”
Weisman will be bringing her experiences to the classroom this fall as she starts her career as a high school French teacher. "I can't wait to show the world to my students," she said.
Meet the Alumni
Andrew Barber '20
Hometown: Dumont, NJ
Advice: "Start your process early. Meet with Natalja [Manger, international student and study abroad advisor] and talk with study abroad alumni early to get your questions asked and get the ball rolliing to make everything easier. You can't ask too many questions! While abroad, prioritize your education and then have all of your fun. Find a balance between classes and adventure."
Paige Weisman '20
Major: Language & Culture Studies, concentration in French; minor in Childhood Studies
Hometown: Egg Harbor Township, NJ
Advice: "Start early, because picking up a job at Chipotle could be the difference between spending fall break in Berlin or your host city (trust me, I know)!"
Melanie Wilezol '17
Major: Business Administration, concentration in Accounting
Hometown: Ocean View, NJ
Advice: "I think it's awesome when students make a conscientious effort to expand to their social circle and form friendships with locals or other international students. It's great to get outside of your comfort bubble and meet people with entirely different cultural, political, ethnic and religious backgrounds. On a practical level: exchange some currency before you arrive and purchase an outlet converter if your host country has different electrical outlets."
Bethany Young '18
Major: Health Science; minor in Holistic Health
Hometown: Magnolia, NJ
Advice: "Be concsious in the work you do. Know the area you are going to and why you want to go there. Learn about their culture, their history, and their present. Understand that service abroad is a partially selfish task. Travel and immerse yourself in a new community and think if there is a better way to help the community before spending money on a service trip, such as supporting their local tourism and gift shops, donating to 501(c)3 nonprofits or sending direct supplies to areas in need."