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MC expands off-campus opportunities

Barry McNamara
01/11/2010
MONMOUTH, Ill. — Like most other institutions of higher learning, Monmouth College spends a lot of time and effort attracting students to its campus. It may seem ironic that a couple of years later, the college encourages many of those students to leave for a semester to take part in one of several off-campus study programs.

That push will be even stronger in the fall of 2010, when Monmouth increases the number of slots available for off-campus study. Additionally, up to 20 students will receive up to $1,000 apiece for airfare to travel to certain programs.

“Spending a semester off campus is a life-changing experience,” said MC’s off-campus study coordinator, Tom Sienkewicz. “Students who go come back transformed, with a broader view of the world. Yet they are also more appreciative of their own backyard and appreciative of what it means to be at Monmouth College.”

Monmouth had 13 students participate in off-campus programs during the fall semester, including ones in Florence, Northern Ireland, Costa Rica, India, Spain and Puerto Rico. The students who remained in the U.S. participated in programs in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

“I am happy to report that I now am an intern with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training,” wrote Nishant Dixit, a Washington Semester participant, in a blog entry last fall. In another entry, the senior from Nepal wrote of a day in which he met a lifelong civil servant, a security strategist and a foreign journalist. “Lesson taken from the three stories: Be careful if you want a career in international politics. You will have to make hard choices, which will usually be against your perceptions of personal morality.”

Now that his semester is over, Dixit reports, “I’m very glad I went. I loved D.C., and I want to go back to the city for graduate school. I was able to make use of D.C.’s various resources in my study of American foreign policy. I went to seminars at think tanks, I interacted with bureaucrats and foreign diplomats as well as congressional staffers, and I experienced firsthand the many debates over the implementation of American foreign policy.”

In the spring, 15 students will study off campus, including three who are traveling to France and the first two students who are part of a new program with Akita University in Japan.

“Akita University is a small college in a small town, and all the instruction is in English,” said Sienkewicz. “Our students who go there will feel a lot of similarities to Monmouth.”

Monmouth does not add to its list of off-campus study programs on a whim. The college takes seriously its obligation to provide quality programs, which are only approved after careful review by the faculty.

Such careful review is currently in the works for Monmouth’s association with the University of Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute (UHI). Officials from the chain of schools in Scotland have been to Monmouth on a few occasions – most recently in November – and Monmouth officials have also been to Scotland. That will again be the case over Spring Break, when an MC contingent goes there to further discuss “appropriate intersections” between the schools.

Sienkewicz explained how the college’s relationship with the Scottish consortium has grown in the past couple of years.
“UHI was not able to send us their students because they were set up more like our community colleges, and off-campus study was not part of their two-year programs,” he said. “Now that they have full, four-year programs, they can send us students. That has created an opportunity to discuss some joint degree models, such as international business. Students would receive their bachelor’s degrees from their home institution, but they would spend one semester abroad, studying a cohesive curriculum.”

Tyler Morrow (pictured above), a senior from East Peoria, was so happy with his experience in Scotland that he signed on for another semester abroad last fall.

“I think returning for a second semester to Scotland was a very beneficial decision,” Morrow said. “Going back a second time allowed me to enjoy the culture a bit more since I already knew people and had established myself. I found an internship working for the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, which was a great opportunity. I represented Perth College and had the chance to exchange ideas with other students that represented other colleges all over Scotland. The internship experience was fantastic and it gave me the freedom to travel to other colleges to see the country.”
He added, “I know the experience I’ve had over the year in Scotland has helped me become more employable. When you’re put into a situation that is out of your comfort zone, it is not always easy but it helps you mature academically and personally. I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad two semesters in such a beautiful country.”

Dixit concurred with Morrow’s sentiments about connecting professionally and growing personally.

“I would tell students to spend a semester off-campus,” he said. “You meet a lot of new people and experience a new environment. In the case of D.C., you will also meet many professionals in your field and learn what it takes to succeed in your future profession. Off- campus programs help one grow both as a person and a student.”