NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Branching out abroad

Program offers students chance to experience international travel

Traveling to another country might be easier than it sounds. Northern Essex has a unique and very accessible study abroad program offered to students. Students are able to learn about the history and culture of the country they are traveling to at NECC.  They then travel to the country and experience the food, people, studies, and culture. Students are also able to earn credits while studying abroad.  Alicia Iola, who works in the International Studies department, says that she wants students to see that “there is a life outside of New England.”  She stated that she didn’t participate in any study abroad opportunities when she was in college because she had some travel anxieties.  “The unknown is not something I am comfortable with. And I think a lot of students in New England feel the same way,” she said. 

Iola found that a lot of students have not applied to get a passport when they are enrolled in the study abroad programs.  She says it’s great to see students get outside of New England and get new experiences around the world. The study abroad programs at NECC are very accessible for students. The price tag on going on a personal trip to a different country can be very high. The plane, food, hotel, and attraction costs can add up very quickly. But going through a school program, like the ones at NECC, can cut down on costs dramatically. There are still costs to traveling with the program, but it is less than traveling alone. Another way the program is more accessible is having students travel in a group. A lot of 4-year colleges offer study abroad programs where students travel alone and are usually there for a semester. The program NECC offers lets students travel in a group.

The students are not abroad for a semester either. First time travelers might find this experience more approachable than traveling alone.  Not every community college offers study abroad opportunities.  “It is difficult to get students on board because they are only here for two years,” Iola said.  Students aren’t living on campus and don’t see other students as much as they would if they were boarding on campus. This means that getting the word out about travel experiences can be much more difficult. “Not a lot of students and faculty know that we offer (study abroad trips),” Iola added.  Study abroad countries are chosen by student input.  Iola host a “tabling event” where she has a map laid out and asks students where they would want to travel. 

Not only does this give students an opportunity to start thinking about places they want to go, but it also gives the staff of the International Studies department a way to figure out where students want to go the most.

There is always a change in trends, Iola stated.  A lot of people usually want to go to Italy, Ireland, and England because of their heritage. But recently, Iola has seen a lot of people wanting to go to Japan and Germany.  Being able to take what you learn in the classroom and see it unfold in front of your eyes is an amazing experience. I was fortunate enough to go on a study abroad program to Ireland in January 2018. I learned a lot about the literature and history of Ireland in the classroom. When I traveled to the country, I was able to learn more and apply what I learned through the textbooks in class. It is a very different experience traveling to the country you learned about, rather than just reading about it through someone else’s words.  “Always ask questions!” Iola said enthusiastically.  “Even if you’re not really on board but you are kind of interested, feel free to reach out.”  Iola stressed the point that this program is for all students. Not just the ones who are passionate about traveling.  “All you have to do is get to the airport and we’ll take it from there!” she added.