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Students gain cultural enrichment and career preparation through Education Abroad  

embedded-news-education-abroad-teaching.webpMorehead State University offers many experiences outside the classroom so its students can get the skills and expertise needed to pursue their passion and unlock their potential.  

For one of those programs, students are gaining cultural and academic experience through MSU’s Education Abroad program.  

The Education Abroad program has allowed students to study internationally at a university or complete an internship in another country. The program cooperates with the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS) and the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (CCSA). Through these partnerships, MSU students can travel to 25 countries, covering Canada, Mexico, several countries in Central America and South America, and overseas experiences ranging from London and France to Japan and South Korea. The Education Abroad experiences can last as short as a Spring Break, a month in the summer or an entire semester.  

Ava Winstel, a senior from Fort Thomas, and Lakole Fields, a senior from Grayson, are education majors who participated in Education Abroad during spring break last year. MSU education students went on a 10-day trip to a non-English-speaking school in Vila Velha, Brazil. The practicum experience was at a large P-12 school teaching Brazilian students how to improve literacy skills in the English language.  

“One of my favorite highlights of the trip was going to the school for the first time and being greeted by the sweetest students and staff. They would crowd around us just to take us in and hear us speak English. Every time we would come and leave the school, everyone would wave and want to take pictures of us,” Winstel said. “The students would individually thank us for coming to their school, talking to them, and wanting to experience what they experience every day.”  

“I learned so much more than I ever expected from this trip. I honestly thought just being able to go to Brazil and be on the beach would be the highlight of my trip, but actually going to the school was my absolute favorite part of the trip,” Fields said. “Getting to interact with the students and teach them about America was something I will never forget.”  

embedded-news-education-abroad-group.webpDr. Gera Nelson, assistant professor of early childhood, elementary and special education, was one of the MSU faculty members who accompanied students on the Brazil trip, and it was her first Education Abroad experience.  

“I was initially apprehensive about the MSU students getting too frustrated about the language barriers. However, our students improvised with Chromebooks and navigated the communication and teaching tasks with an incredible ease,” Nelson said. “In the end, our students expressed their satisfaction with their ability to communicate with the students in Brazil and succeed teaching their lessons.”  

Aaron Hirsch, coordinator of Education Abroad, said that while the program has always had cultural and educational benefits to students, the focus has shifted to making students more career-ready. Since becoming a part of MSU’s Center for Career Development and Experiential Education, almost every Education Abroad experience will count as a Level UP course where students can gain certification in one of five desirable career skills for potential employers.  

“Lots of students would go on programs that might fit their personal interest but not necessarily their academic or career interests,” Hirsch said. “We try to promote it on the impact it is going to have on your career moving forward. We’re just trying to get you the most benefit for your financial investment.”  

Hirsch points out one of the benefits of Education Abroad can be a cost-beneficial choice when it comes to internships or practicums. Many internship opportunities are in larger Kentucky cities like Lexington, Louisville, or Frankfort. Since many MSU students are from the Eastern Kentucky service region, the cost to complete these internships adds up when you factor in travel expenses like food and gas or housing. For the same price, students can sometimes complete their internship or practicum while traveling internationally, whether they are a social work student getting work experience in Spain or an education student completing their practicum in South Korea.  

If students qualify for a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, their Education Abroad experience could be cost-free. This prestigious scholarship is the U.S. Department of State's grant program, allowing students in need of financial support the opportunity to study and intern abroad. Hirsch said this past year, the Education Program awarded $100,000 in scholarships through the Gilman Scholarship last year, “and we expect to be over that for the coming year.” Students eligible for Pell Grants are also eligible for the Gilman Scholarship. Hirsch said 12 students were Gilman Scholars last year, and the program aims to reach 20 Gilman Scholars per year to continue their education abroad.  

“That is our biggest growth component for us is low-income students. Those are the student population growing the most for traveling abroad for us,” he said. “A lot of students think of finance as the biggest barrier. There are a lot of ways we work to get around that barrier.”  

As more college students are looking for ways to obtain real-world experience and career-ready skills while standing out to potential employers, MSU’s Education Abroad program can provide all those with the added possibility of cultural enrichment and international perspective.  

“To anyone considering the Education Abroad program, just do it. I would go again in a heartbeat,” Fields said. “I made so many memories on this trip that I will never forget. I formed better relationships with my classmates and formed new relationships with the students in Brazil. When I think about how hesitant I was about going initially, I am so glad I did not talk myself out of going. I honestly cannot say enough good things about this program and the mentors who went on the trip with us.”  

To learn more about MSU's Education Abroad program, contact Hirsch at or 606-783-2044.  

Photo, top: Ava Winstel, a senior from Fort Thomas majoring in elementary education, took this scenic picture on her Education Abroad trip to Brazil.

Photo, right: Alley Patrick, a senior from Salyersville majoring in elementary education, teaching at a non-English-speaking school in Vila Velha, Brazil.

Photo, left: Gera Nelson (far right), assistant professor of early childhood, elementary and special education, was one of the MSU faculty members who accompanied a group of students on the Brazil trip. It was her first Education Abroad experience. 










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