Winter study programs provide global perspective

Most students are beginning their third week of classes after winter break. However, a group of 28 Mount Mary students spent their winter breaks learning abroad with faculty-led programs to Ireland and France.

About 1 out of every 5 Mount Mary students study abroad– which is 10 percent higher than the national rate of 8-9 percent of undergraduates who study abroad.

About 1 out of every 5 Mount Mary students study abroad– which is 10 percent higher than the national rate of 8-9 percent of undergraduate students who study abroad (Source: Open Doors Report).

The vast majority of students who study abroad do so on Mount Mary’s short-term, faculty-led programs (85% of study abroad students). This type of program typically travels between semesters and range from 2-3 weeks in length; they are well-suited to student schedules, said Nan Metzger, Director of International Studies.

Other students commit to spend longer amounts of time or choose alternate destinations and may choose to study or intern abroad over the summer or for a semester-length program.  Metzger works to identify programs that meet the student’s stated academic and professional goals and that fit their budgets. 

“Studies show that many employers seek employees with ‘soft skills,’ such as inter-cultural skills, problem-solving skills, and adaptability, and study abroad provides many opportunities to develop these skills in ways that provide for meaningful examples in future interviews for internships or employment,” stated Metzger. (Source: Maes, Weldy, Icenogle in The Journal of Business Communication)

Faculty-led programs provide connections

One benefit of faculty-led programs is that it often provides students’ the opportunity to travel with a faculty member who they already know, which provides a sense of security, especially for those students for whom it is their first time leaving the U.S. For example, in the past calendar year, 19 Mount Mary students applied for their first passport in order to participate in study abroad. Studying on these short-term programs often provides opportunities for students to develop or deepen friendships with other students.

The two programs held over winter break included a study abroad program dedicated to the fashion program that spent nearly a month in Paris and a 2-week long program to Ireland and Northern Ireland, which offered core courses.

In France, Mount Mary partners with Paris American Academy, to connect students with local experts currently working in the group-at-eiffel-tower.jpgfashion industry in Paris. Much of the program is dedicated to hands-on workshops with experts such as Madame Picco, the draper for Madame Grés, or learning about different merchandising techniques by exploring the various fashion districts of Paris. Highlights of the program include students planning and executing a photo shoot, as well as dressing a fashion show during Paris Fashion Week.

One feature that sets the Paris program apart is that it is one of the only programs dedicated to a specific major. The majority of the short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs offer courses that fulfill core or general education requirements, to ensure that students from any major may participate.

derry_walk.jpgThe Ireland program offered a Psychology course entitled, Psychology of Peace, and a Fine Arts course entitled, Time, Place and Memory. Over the course of 2 weeks, the group traveled to four cities, including Galway, Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and Dublin. The heart of the program takes place in Northern Ireland, where students are able to meet with local community leaders in the peace movement to hear personal testimonials of how the Troubles impacted people. Visits to museums and cultural centers provide a more well-rounded and holistic understanding of the people and culture of the Isle of Eire.

Past study abroad students have studied in various destinations, including Thailand, Australia and South Korea. Students have studied Spanish in Spain, explored biological diversity and sustainability in Costa Rica, and learned about interior design in Scandinavia.  

Scholarships support independent opportunities

Outside scholarships also provide additional opportunities for students to study abroad independently.

Since 2012, 20 Mount Mary students have been recipients of the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship helps students, particularly first-generation college students and students from underrepresented populations, to study abroad.

Zoua Pa Yang, a Mount Mary junior studying art therapy, was recently awarded a full scholarship to study abroad in Thailand over summer 2019.

“With a student body at Mount Mary that’s at least 40 percent first-generation college students, and 55 percent Pell Grant eligible, studying abroad can often seem out of reach to some students, which is why a full-ride scholarship such as provided by TEAN makes such an impact for our students,” said Metzger.

The lasting benefits of study abroad

Short-term benefits of study abroad include increased skills in problem solving, cultural sensitivity, and team work, all of which are in-demand by employers. Participants also gain long-term benefits such as higher salaries, higher graduate school acceptance rates and an increase in adaptability in diverse work environments (Source: IES Abroad).

“Although students often identify cost as one of the challenges to participating in study abroad, our students are focused and persistent in finding ways to put together the necessary funding through a variety of means, including scholarships, family, and work. When they return, they often report how valuable the experience was – more than any price tag can measure,” Metzger said.

As study-abroad numbers continue to rise, more and more students are better positioned to gain these benefits that outlast their journeys– abroad, on the Mount Mary campus, and beyond.

To learn more about Mount Mary’s study abroad opportunities, visit