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Study abroad scholarships: initiative required

Katies at Yonsei University in Seoul, fall 2010–spring 2011: (left to right) Dawn Vang ’13, Mai Thao Xiong ’13, Pachia Vang ’13, Ntshiashee Kristine Lee ’13, Emelie Mohammed ’12.
Katies at Yonsei University in Seoul, fall 2010–spring 2011: (left to right) Dawn Vang ’13, Mai Thao Xiong ’13, Pachia Vang ’13, Ntshiashee Kristine Lee ’13, Emelie Mohammed ’12.

Each year, more than 200 St. Kate’s students head overseas to expand or enhance their liberal arts learning. The Office of Global Studies in Derham Hall is the University’s go-to place for all things study abroad.

“In the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of students getting scholarships and the amount of money our students are getting,” says Raine de Campeau, assistant director of Global Studies.

She attributes the trend to her office getting more information out (for example, a handout listing study abroad grants and scholarships), students themselves being more proactive (actually applying for a scholarship or submitting more than one scholarship application) and study abroad organizations offering more need-based, diversity or STEM-focused scholarships.

St. Kate's does not currently offer any scholarships specific to study abroad, but the University does allow students to use its financial aid towards study abroad. This fall, 28 St. Kate’s students are studying abroad, and seven of them earned their education-abroad scholarships in their first year at the University.

“I was really impressed by this group,” de Campeau says. “They came into the office very early, and with scholarships, that’s what it takes. It takes a lot of organization, planning and preparation in order to meet all those deadlines.”

Of the seven, four are now sophomores —Dawn Vang, Mai Thao Xiong, Ntshiashee Lee and Pachia Vang — studying in Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea through late June 2011.

“This is my first study abroad experience,” says Vang ’13, the recipient of the prestigious Benjamin A Gilman Institutional scholarship and the CIEE John Bowman Travel grant. “The best thing about studying in South Korea would be the food and shopping areas.”

No wonder. Vang, a double major in accounting and financial economics, and her Katie friends live in the heart of Sinchon, a popular and bustling area of Seoul that’s famous for its shopping and nightlife.

“It's really different (from living in St. Paul) because we walk everywhere,” explains Xiong, who received the CIEE Robert B. Bailey diversity scholarship. “There is an outside shopping center located 15 minutes by foot near our school… and we have to set aside time to walk to class. At St. Kate's, we can just get up and go — the class is just right there [close to the residence halls].”

Both Xiong and Vang are completing general education courses in the Asian city. Xiong, a double major in English and communications with a minor in Chinese, is also taking communication courses. While, Vang has classes related to her major as well, in addition to studying the Korean language.

“St. Kate’s Global Office was very helpful in my planning and application process all the way up until I left,” Vang says. “I wouldn't have known what to do without the office. The staff worked with all the other departments on campus and connected me with everything I needed to make sure that I was on track.”

Where in the world…
At St. Catherine University, students can choose from more than 150 different study abroad programs in 50 different countries. Summer, January term, semester, and academic year programs are available — and all offer academic credit and the chance to be part of life somewhere else.

Where St. Kate’s students choose to study abroad varies each semester. “Any time we try to predict the top country or where the students will go,” de Campeau says, “we are wrong.”

Nationwide, she adds, the most popular countries are the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, China and, more recently, Australia.

“Every scholarship I’ve applied for was worth the time and effort,” Xiong says. “A little goes a long way, and even if a scholarship makes up just a small fraction of help, it still makes a big difference.”

Xiong says she chose to study abroad for the experience. Next on her list is China.

“I did not expect to find so many similarities between Korean culture and history and my own Hmong background,” she says. “But by stepping outside of my culture, I am reflecting so much more on my community and culture than when I was actually a part of it. When I get back to the United States, I want to add Hmong Critical Studies to my major.”

For Vang, Seoul is a chance to broaden her outlook and make some new friends.

“I definitely encourage other students to study abroad,” she says. “It's a once in a lifetime experience … it opens you up to a whole world of different ideas and knowledge.”

Nov. 12, 2010 by Pauline Oo

See also: Liberal Arts, Students