[london]After six weeks of experiencing everything from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey to the infamous tube, English junior Lexi Biasell was used to a whirlwind of activity and sight-seeing. It wasn’t until Biasell’s last day in England when she finally had her chance to sit down and take a load off – for about 10 hours in Heathrow Airport as she waited for her plane to depart.
Most remember the 2005 terrorist attacks in London, and Biasell, who studied abroad with MSU’s Literature in London program, was just one of many students who were in London during the most recent threat – liquid explosives in Heathrow. “The threats broke out on Thursday at Heathrow and we flew out of there on Saturday,” Biasell said. “It was scary those last days we were in London. Especially at the airport – everyone was really on edge.”
Despite threats of terrorism, Biasell said she still had the “time of her life” on her study abroad program, and encourages others to go. “I would go on study abroad again in a second,” Biasell said.
The state of world affairs could be a deterrent for the fainter of heart, but many students allow the desire to leave familiar territory and explore the world to dominate their choices to travel. “World conflicts definitely have an impact on travel decisions,\” Biasell said. \”After the trip, I swore I never wanted to see another airport. But the experience is so much more. I don’t think people should let world issues prevent them from not having that valuable experience.”
Biasell is not alone in her refusal to allow overseas events dictate desires to travel abroad. International relations junior Sarah Little studied abroad in 2005 and now is a peer adviser in the study abroad office. Little traveled to Ireland with hopes of meeting more MSU students and to get a feel for life in another country. These positive experiences abroad encouraged Little to come back to MSU and share her experiences with others by working in the Office of Study Abroad. “When I went to Ireland, I learned so much about the Irish culture, and it even helped me to learn more about my own culture,” Little said. “I gained so much knowledge about the world—it’s definitely an experience everyone should have.” [border]
Many students continue to travel so they can take a break from regular days and immerse themselves in a culture that is far different from their own. English and pre-med senior Natalie Khoury traveled to Madrid, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Paris and San Sebastian with a friend. Khoury planned her trip through STA Travel and arrived in Europe equipped with a phone card and an international ID card. She planned for her day-to-day activities via the Internet while she was abroad, adding spontaneity to her European ventures.
\”I really liked being able to change my atmosphere,\” Khoury said. \”I was able to take in the different food and cultures. It was also interesting to see Europeans’ feelings towards Americans. I made a lot of comparisons between other cultures and my own in America. I found that I fit in with the European lifestyle better.”
Although culture shock may be the most salient effect of a travel experience, students who go abroad are also introduced to the intricacies of an entirely new society. In addition to the typical photo opportunities in front of famous monuments and tours about infamous historical moments, students are taken out of familiarity and thrust into a completely different environment. Student jet-setters can see the opinions of American lifestyles firsthand from people met while traveling.
“Going abroad opens up a whole spectrum,” Biasell said. “Once you go, you realize that there are a ton of opportunities for careers and internships outside of the U.S. From talking to the natives, I really got a sense of how the rest of the world sees America. I now have a much better handle on global and political issues.”
Peter Briggs, the director of International Students and Scholars, said in an e-mail that the world holds as many dangers as we think, but it is important to travel despite these risks. “We want people to have a global perspective for many reasons, and if they never leave our borders, they limit their own life experiences,” Briggs said. “I find the ways of other cultures to be fascinating and I do not fear the world and would want others to embrace that view too. Seeing new things and confronting different ways helps you get your own grip on the world.” [globetrotter]
Briggs had his first significant travel experience during his junior year of college; he participated in a student exchange program in Avignon, France. “It was during the Vietnam War, and it was powerful to see my own country through the eyes of others. I\’ve been fortunate to have a career that has allowed me to keep connected with the wider world.”
As the director, Briggs assists international students and faculty on campus; he deals with visas and immigration issues, and these processes has gotten more “compliance-oriented” since Sept. 11. The office provides programs to integrate students from abroad into the life of the campus and community, organizes educational programs to learn from the diverse cultures on campus and serves as the liaison with foreign embassies and consulates, Briggs said.
“In my life, I\’ve been fortunate to have traveled widely throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America,” Briggs said. “The experience has broadened my view of others and helps to humanize people of other cultures.”
MSU Study Abroad works to remain the number one public university for study abroad recruits through heavy promotion and exposure, especially through Study Abroad Fairs held every semester. The fall fair was held on Sept. 21 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the MSU Union. The majority of the booths attracted students with posters, pictures, fliers, giveaways and free food – something many college students cannot refuse. Program faculty also provided students with information about program details, costs and degree requirements. Along with the study abroad office, representatives from the Olin travel clinic, the MSU Credit Union and the resource center and MSU faculty were present to answer questions and assist students in their study abroad decisions.
And troubles abroad, such as the London terrorist plot and the ongoing wars in the Middle East, aren\’t stopping students who are determined to see more of the world. “It’s been very busy; there has been a steady flow of students all day,” said English professor and Film in Britain instructor Stephen Rachman, who was talking to students interested in the program during the study abroad fair. “We have twice as many interested students signed up this year than we had last year.”
It\’s hard not to get excited about studying abroad when faced with so many options. “They did a really good job of setting up the study abroad fair,\” interior design junior Erica Donnell said. \”It made me feel comfortable about all the programs. But I think, in future years, it would be a good idea for the study abroad office to set up a booth at the fair about safety and travel tips, especially with everything going on in the world.”
While many students choose to travel through a study abroad program, taking classes and sightseeing for several weeks, others opt to spend spring break putting in lengthy volunteer hours through the Alternative Spring Break program. Communications senior and ASB fundraising chair Ben Nemeth chose to spend his spring break volunteering for the last two years. While he has yet to travel outside of the U.S. with the program, Nemeth has experienced a different lifestyle, in the same way as students who travel ancient Rome or historic Russia. Alternative Spring Break is far from your average vacation, according to Nemeth.
“You get to see more of the local culture and flavor, and you have more social contact with the community you\’re working in,” Nemeth said. “Overall, it\’s such a rewarding experience because you can see that you\’re making a difference. I hope to go to San Francisco this year and help with AIDS work.”
[plane]From participating in communty service to studying abroad to packing up and taking a road trip across the U.S., there is no such thing as a “typical” travel experience. Traveling gives MSU students a chance to be completely surrounded in another world. It does not matter where one wants to go, or if a student has never set foot out of the continental United States. Whether a student wants to spend time exploring the coral reefs of Australia or eating baguettes in Parisian corner cafes, experiencing an unknown place can be both scary and exhilarating. Travel is new. Travel is fun. And traveling abroad is an experience students will continue to choose to do, in the face of war or peace.

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