Student traveler mourns international budget cuts

New culture exhilarating for correspondent

New culture ‘exhilarating’ for correspondent

Rita Forbes

Being out of the country, I am often out of the loop. Even though I talk with my parents on a regular basis, there’s always the possibility that they will forget to tell me something important. Part of me is afraid that one day, they will off-handedly mention “Oh yeah, your brother got married,” or “Did we tell you we moved to the west coast?”

I never anticipated receiving a similar shock from Missouri Southern. But several weeks ago, an email from a professor included the line, “The budget for the Institute of International Studies has been cut by over one third.”

I still can’t believe it.

The international mission is what drew me to MSSU. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to spend significant time abroad, and I knew that the school would support me in achieving that goal.

I was not disappointed. With support and guidance from the Institute of International Studies, I have participated in a faculty-led summer trip to Germany, spent a year studying in Ansbach, and completed research abroad for the McCaleb Initiative for Peace. And I’m not done yet: this year I am studying in Bremen and interning with a German company.

Too much study abroad for just one person? Is it a waste of money to send a student abroad more than once? I don’t think so.

My summer trip was a good experience. It broke the ice. But it wasn’t enough. I needed more time to become truly fluent in German, to re-evaluate myself, to get to know a new culture. Had I been limited to just one study abroad experience, my life would not be the same today.

And had I not received financial support from the Institute of International Studies, I would not have been able to spend this much time abroad. Although a $1,000 grant does not cover the cost of any study abroad trip, when combined with personal savings and outside scholarships, it can make a big difference.

MSSU is one of hundreds of small, public universities in the United States. But thanks to the international mission, it stands out.

I strongly doubt that I could have collected the rich international experiences of the last few years at any other school in the country, whether large or small, public or private, prestigious or unknown.

The University’s strength lies in its springboard function: yes, it is located smack-dab in the middle of the United States.

But while officially enrolled at MSSU in the relatively Joplin, students can study almost anywhere in the world.

I’m not the only one to come back glowing from a study abroad experience. My friends have traveled the globe too, studying in places like England, Chile, Northern Ireland and China. Their lives and their futures have been changed, just like mine.

It saddens me to know that in the future, a significantly smaller percentage of MSSU students will be able to experience these things.

I don’t expect time to stand still while I’m in Germany. Change can be good; I look forward to seeing both new faces and new buildings on campus next year. But I dread the thought of arriving in Joplin and finding a university where the new generation of students is denied the opportunities which have meant so much to me.