Parkland Study Abroad Program offers new experience for students

Marnie Leonard

Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Jody Littleton/Parkland College (From Left) Rebecca Grosser, Nadya Cortes, Grace Dyrek, Susan Foster, Joanna Piwoni, Jody Littleton ,Nancy Lane, Candice Milk, Julia Drewitz stand in front of the University de Bourgogne in Dijon, France.

Photo courtesy of Jody Littleton/Parkland College
(From Left) Rebecca Grosser, Nadya Cortes, Grace Dyrek, Susan Foster, Joanna Piwoni, Jody Littleton ,Nancy Lane, Candice Milk, Julia Drewitz stand in front of the University de Bourgogne in Dijon, France.

Learning a new language, meeting new people from all around the world, and experiencing a foreign culture – all these are opportunities that the Parkland Study Abroad Program offers its students. Jody Littleton, the Program Coordinator, explained how each trip usually works.

First, students choose which trip they want to embark on. Parkland offers programs in Austria, China, Costa Rica, England, France, Ireland, and Spain. Once you’ve done that, you go to Littleton and fill out all the necessary paperwork. The next step is to fundraise and pay for all the tuition and fees involved with the trip.

Littleton stated that the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs, or ICISP, which is the organization that Parkland does the majority of its study abroad programs through, has a $500 scholarship available to students who wish to study abroad. Parkland has a $500 scholarship obtainable as well. You can also apply any financial aid you have to the trip, excluding the Parkland Board of Trustees Scholarship.

Since Parkland is a member of ICISP, Parkland students studying abroad will find themselves travelling with students from community colleges all over Illinois, including a few in Wisconsin and Indiana. There are only two Study Abroad programs that are through Parkland only, the Costa Rica Agriculture trip and the Gardens of England Horticulture trip.

Littleton added that students should not be intimidated by trips to non-English speaking countries such as Austria, France, or Spain. There are no pre-requisites for language in these programs, and although some of your classes will be taught completely in the foreign language, it is easier to pick it up when you are surrounded by it.

“They believe in the immersion system…and it’s totally do-able. Everybody’s speaking the language, you see it in the street, in the stores, and in the signs you have to read. Everything around you reinforces what you’re learning in the classroom,” Littleton explained.

Littleton then detailed why studying abroad is a great opportunity for students. One of the major reasons is that it’s an impressive resume builder.

“We are very much an international society. Studying abroad shows you’re adventuresome, you’re open to new ideas, and you have a cultural worldview that someone who hasn’t studied abroad maybe doesn’t have. It’s very advantageous for your profession,” Littleton said.

Lily Hart, a former Parkland Pathway student who currently majors in Environmental Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, did the Study Abroad trip to Dijon, France over the summer. She said she would recommend studying abroad to any student.

“You’ll never truly understand the joy of it until you go on your own adventure—it was such an experience to meet people from all over the world, and eat French cuisine, and drink wine, and experience French culture while making lifelong friends,” Hart remarked.

Littleton similarly expressed that, apart from all the resume and career advantages that come with studying abroad, it is a unique and fun opportunity that you might not be able to have after you graduate school.

“Once you get into your job, when are you ever going to have a few months to take and go and live in another country? I think you need to experience it now before you get too bogged down with jobs and families and those kinds of things. Travel now while you have that freedom,” Littleton suggested.

A current Parkland Business Management major Susan Foster also went on the France trip this summer. She would tell any student interested in studying abroad that it is well worth the time, effort, and money.

“When we understand that for many of us, our heritage came from European countries, it brings awareness to what the world has to offer beyond our own back doors,” Foster stated.

Finally, Littleton asserted that being a stranger in a foreign land helps you to empathize with people who come to the U.S. and struggle in the same way.

“You feel more patience with people, and you understand the struggles they’re going through. You learn that people are really, really different, even the ones who speak the same language as us. You learn that people around the world think very differently than Americans,” Littleton said.

For more information on the requirements for the Study Abroad Program and for tips on how to fund your trip, visit http://bit.ly/YnoFBW.