For students wishing they can travel but feel tied down by school, the travel abroad program allows Pierce College students to combine both by spending a quarter studying in another country. Currently, students are studying in London, England, and upcoming trips are scheduled to Florence, Italy and Barcelona, Spain in spring of 2015.
Pierce belongs to Washington State Community College Consortium For Study Abroad, which is responsible for putting together the different study abroad programs for students.
“We’ve been members of the consortium for over 20 years,” Mary Meulblok, Manager of International Student Services said. “We have some regular programs to London, Florence, Australia-New Zealand, Japan, Costa Rica, but we are always trying out new locations as well.”
Last year they traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, Prague, and the Czech Republic for the first time. They’re also exploring locations in Germany, Argentina and Barcelona in the future. They have short-term summer programs that last four weeks, but most of Pierce College’s programs are one quarter long.
Meulblok explains that the quarter long programs are 15 credits. Ten credits are taught by the instructor hired by WCCCSA to teach abroad and the other five from additional cuture and language courses. The trips also include living arrangements that range from host families, to dorms and even student lodges. The program includes side trips that allow students to explore the country they’re visiting.
To apply, students must be at least 17 years old, or 18 in the case of Prague and Florence, Italy. Students must also meet a minimum GPA of 2.5 and be previously enrolled at Pierce with at least 10 credits accumulated. Then students must provide two references and write an application essay. As long as the students can meet those requirements you may fill out a WCCCSA application.
“Of course, they have to figure out the financial part too,” Meulblok said. “We can give them some guidance.”
Meulblok said that financial questions are always the first ones asked.
“Studying abroad is expensive,” Meulblok said, “but it’s the best investment you could ever make in yourself.”
Part of Meulblok’s job is providing information that can guide students towards receiving the maximum amount of financial aid and scholarships, organizing fundraisers and more. It’s recommended that students complete their FAFSA about six months before you plan on leaving. There is personal cost involved, but students may be surprised by how much funding is available.
Meulblok said she keeps in touch with most students that go on the trips.
“Every single student has amazing experiences,” Meublok said. “There was a Puyallup graduate that did study abroad in Australia-New Zealand in 2007. I’ve kept in touch with her and in November, I met her in Turkey. Right now she is on her third year of being a nanny in Turkey.”
Another student, Meulblok said, feels so close to his host family he had in Costa Rica that he feels they will be connected for life.
Anyone interested in studying abroad can start by visiting both the WCCCSA website and the Pierce study abroad page online. Next, students can visit one of the two study abroad coordinators, Shannon Scott or Meulblok, who are both based at the Fort Steilacoom campus in C509. They have office hours at Puyallup on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in C290F.
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