Tara Graham – Social Media Manager
Each year, the college offers study abroad opportunities to students through two different programs. However, there are several differences between both programs that students should know about before packing their bags.
Students can learn more about study abroad programs from Jody Shulnak, international student recruitment and outreach manager with the Office of International Programs, at the International Day event on Nov. 15 in the Gaiser Student Center.
Some trips are led by Clark faculty members, lasting about three weeks. Others are provided in collaboration with the Washington State Community College Consortium for Study Abroad (WCCCSA), which last for a quarter.
The choice of a program depends on how much time students have left in their degree schedule, how proficient they are in their language classes and if they need the credits each trip offers.
Each study abroad program offered by the WCCCSA has its own set of classes which offers credits in different categories, depending on what credits students still need to finish their degrees. The faculty-led programs, which require students to be more proficient in their language skills, do not offer credits to students. However, students on faculty-led programs can get help paying for the trip through the ASCC.
Both programs Clark offers strive to make sure students are educated in all aspects of their study abroad experience. This includes pre-trip and upon-arrival orientations to help students understand the culture of the country and re-entry meetings after the student returns home to help them process their experience.
In 2019, there will be two study abroad trips led by Clark faculty members; one to Kyoto, Japan and one to Lima, Peru.
Japanese instructor Nami Inoue is taking a group of selected students to Japan for three weeks. Students will attend school for half of the day then spend the rest of the day engaged in cultural activities with Inoue throughout the city.
Students will also stay two days with a local host family. Inoue said many of the host homes are westernized, but some are considered very traditional. Inoue highly recommends that students take her Japanese Culture and Manners class before their trip, because Japanese culture is quite strict in regards to traditions and taboos.
“No hugging! Shaking hands sometimes. Politeness is keeping your distance and giving a person space,” Inouye said. “Do not be too friendly, just polite.”
Inoue said students in 200-level language classes are usually picked first for the faculty led trips because unlike other study abroad programs, these trips require a high level of fluency when speaking the native language.
“A year studying in America, does not mean a year studying in Japan; [It] maybe equals three or four months,” Inoue said. “A student might not feel comfortable if they are not at this level of speaking the language.”
Jeanine Masumura is a Clark student who has already traveled to Japan and wants to return in 2019. Masumura said she felt her speaking skills were limited when she first visited Japan, even with a year of studying the language, but she managed to get by pretty well.
“The best part of studying abroad is being totally immersed in the culture and making new friends. It is cool to see where we are the same and where we are different,” Masumura said. She believes Inoue’s Japanese Culture and Manners class made a positive difference in her experience.
“Keep an open mind about the culture – be willing to try new foods, go to new places, meet new people and try all kinds of new things!” Masumura said. “As Stephen Covey said, ‘seek first to understand, then seek to be understood.’”
The other study abroad program option offered by Clark is though the WCCCSA. The WCCCSA is composed of numerous Washington state community colleges, meaning that students travel with students from other schools. The WCCCSA language requirements are not as strict as faculty trips.
Students study in English, with a Washington state community college instructor accompanying them on the trip. Credits that students earn for the quarter go directly onto their transcripts at Clark, meaning there is no interruption in the student’s graduation timeline.
Shulnak also offers one-on-one meetings with students after they return home from their trips, as the culture shock can be more intense than when they first arrived in the new country. She said that students are often very excited about their time overseas, as their eyes have been opened to the world around them and they are excited to tell their family and friends about their experience.
Unfortunately, their excitement isn’t always reciprocated, which is where Shulnak comes in. She helps students deal with their feelings and general well being after returning home.
Shulnak hosts study abroad 101 orientations throughout the year which provides students with all the information they need to make the decision to study abroad and works with students and the WCCCSA to organize the trips. Shulnak said students can use their financial aid towards a study abroad program.
“If students are eligible for financial aid they can transfer all of the award they have that term over to study abroad,” Shulnak said. This has allowed more community college students to travel abroad than ever before.
Students interested in studying abroad can ontact the Office of International Programs in GHL 216 or online here for more information.