The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 29, 2012

Study abroad grows by becoming smaller

MANKATO — With just three weeks of American experiences behind them, the “new and wonderful” wasn’t over quite yet. At this particular moment, “puppy chow” was flooding their senses for the first time.

“You’re going to have to send us the recipe,” said Jordyn Tarr, shoving a couple of pieces of the crispy, chocolatey, sugary concoction in her mouth.

Lori Bird, who had prepared the American treat for the group of seven Brisbane, Australia, students, said she would be glad to if Tarr wasn’t watching her sugar and calorie intake. (Puppy chow isn’t particularly nutrient-rich, and Tarr is a primary education major in health and physical education.)

“Not since I’ve been here,” she said with a laugh.

The teacher-candidate students from QUT University in Brisbane had been student-teaching for three weeks at Rosa Parks Elementary school in Mankato, gaining life experience in a different culture and career experience from new teachers, with new ideas, using a new curriculum.

With their stay in Mankato winding down, three weeks didn’t seem like a lot of time to have learned a great deal. The Brisbane lot begged to differ.

“It’s about being out of your comfort zone, just doing something out of the norm,” said Aleesa Swindlehurst, primary education major. “I’ve loved it.”

Shorter trips, smaller cost

The Australian group — who came to Mankato through a partnership between the College of Education at Minnesota State University and QUT — are part of a growing trend of students taking shorter, several-week study-abroad trips in recent years. Most such trips are organized by individual departments through partnerships and under faculty leadership, where groups of students sign up to go together with professors, said Caryn Lindsay, MSU director of international programs.

In the past decade, the norm of semester- or year-long study-abroad trips has changed significantly, she said. Part of the reason is that many students now have jobs and are paying their own way through college, so they can’t take elongated trips.

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