Illinois Wesleyan Ranks High for Students Abroad
March 12, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University is opening international doors.
The University ranked in the top 40 of the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) most recent Open Doors report, which looks at the number of total students studying abroad and international students and scholars coming to the United States. Illinois Wesleyan ranked 37 in the nation among baccalaureate institutions for the total number of students studying abroad during the 2005-2006 academic year.
Open Doors is an apt title of the report because of the opportunities students receive, said Stacey Shimizu, interm director of the International Office at Illinois Wesleyan. “We’re preparing students for global citizenship, and studying abroad is a key tool for that,” Shimizu said of students who take part in study programs and faculty-led coursework abroad. This semester, there are 56 students spending semesters studying abroad, and 52 students from other countries studying at Illinois Wesleyan.
Studying abroad can come in the guise of a year-long exchange, a semester in foreign halls through the multitude of programs with the International Office, or an intensive few weeks with a May Term travel course. “They have access to so many programs here, that students can fill almost any need,” said Shimizu.
During their travels, students find themselves immersed in new cultures and ancient histories. From the mountains of the Middle East to the wetlands of Australia, many students discover their future in traveling abroad, or simply discover something about themselves.
Oman and mountains
When abroad, students can break barriers or become ambassadors of our own culture. Steve Trzyna’s decision to travel abroad came as no surprise to the parents of the senior, especially when he switched his major from biology to international studies major, with an intent of joining the Marines. His choice of destination, however, did surprise them. “When I told my parents I wanted to travel to Oman, my mom looked at me and said, ‘That’s nice. Are you sure you don’t want to go to Spain or Australia like everyone else?’” Trzyna, the first Illinois Wesleyan student to study in the Middle Eastern country on the Arabian Peninsula, knew he wanted to learn Arabic, and was lured by the beauty of Oman’s mountains and beaches. “I’ll never forget the landscape or the people there,” said Trzyba.
Overwhelmed by the friendly nature of the people of Oman, Trzyna came to think of himself as an ambassador for Americans. “The stereotypes of Americans are pretty poor,” he said. “This was a chance for us to really learn from each other."
Korea and Thanksgiving
Being homesick while abroad is natural for any student, but it is often tempered by incredible memories that are fashioned through travel. For David Joung, a junior biology major, a defining moment of his time abroad came when he stood over the gravestones of his grandparents in Korea for the first time. “We were celebrating Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving,” said Joung, who was born in Korea, but moved to the Philippines with his parents when he was five, not returning to the country of his birth until last fall on a semester-long exchange. “It’s a tradition to get together with family, just like here, but you visit the graves of your ancestors and honor them with food and drink and gifts. It was an experience.”
Joung, who plans to pursue a career in dentistry, took courses in at Yonsei University in Seoul City, Korea. But Joung found more studying abroad than discussions on genetics and biochemistry. “The entire experience gave me confidence,” he said. “It was learning another language – I didn’t remember speaking Korean when I was a child – and interacting with people of Korean culture that was enlightening and empowering.”
Venice and performances
Sophomore Liz Schwarzrock remembers sitting in a very old church in Venice, and watching a crowd go wild – for an orchestra. “It was flawless classical music, and the performers had fun. The audience just went nuts,” said the performance theatre major from Edina, Minn., “As a performer, to see how well-respected performances are in Europe is eye-opening experience.” Schwarzrock studied museums and cathedrals in Italy and Austria on a May term travel course, which combines a week of classes in Bloomington with an intensive several weeks in a foreign country. She professes she caught the “travel bug,” and plans on going to Japan this May Term with one of her professors from the School of Theatre Arts. “My last trip was one to take in a different culture, this one will be combining my major with travel.” The class, titled Domo Ari – Got To Go To Japan, will focus on Asian philosophies of energy and movement of the body.
Italy, Austria, Australia and opera
Ryan Reimer’s love of travel came with his first May Term travel course studying the museums and cathedrals of Italy and Austria. “The first day we walked a couple of blocks from our hotel, and there was the Coliseum. It was the first thing we saw, practically right outside our window.” A computer science major, Reimer said May Term travel course offered him the chance to travel and explore outside his field of study. “As a compute science major, there really is no course benefit to me taking an entire semester off, so May Term was perfect,” said the senior from Lindenhurst, Ill. Reimer confesses he caught the travel abroad bug, and has also taken a second May Term trip to Australia and New Zealand. He plans a third this May to China and Korea. “It’s an intensive, but highly organized experience,” said Reimer, who had the rare opportunity to visit the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and hold a koala bear. “I know I will never get a chance again to see and learn these many things, and with a group of people my age. I’m seeing the world with my friends.”
Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960