In her three years as an Auggie, Annika Gunderson ’11 has almost spent more time away from Augsburg than on campus. This international relations and Spanish major from Winona, Minn. has studied abroad three times, spending five weeks in Cuernavaca, Mexico, a semester in Central America, and another semester in Brazil.
Gunderson first traveled to Mexico in the summer of 2009 through Augsburg’s Center for Global Education. There, with a group of students, she studied Latin American culture and civilization. “It was a transforming experience,” she says.
She says Mexico is often written off as a vacation spot where one place is the same as another. The CGE program opened Gunderson to another dimension of Mexico and taught her about the various rich cultural aspects and history of the country.
The structured program also provided opportunities for Gunderson to dialogue with her classmates. “CGE focused on opening up space for us to have conversations and to process our different experiences and opinions.”
Gunderson spent the following fall semester in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua studying sustainable development, also through CGE. She says the semester program was challenging for her academic and personal learning. She adds that it helped her see connections between the countries while also giving her a greater appreciation for the differences.
Last year, Gunderson went to Brazil through the School for International Training (SIT) to conduct research and learn about the social, political, and environmental movements in the country. There she researched holistic alternative health and healing at a center for healing and spirituality.
Gunderson suggests that all students consider studying abroad on a short-term program or for an entire semester. “It’s important to be able to challenge oneself to go beyond, to experience something unfamiliar,” she says. She adds that study abroad is very possible for all students.
Leah Spinosa de Vega, director of Augsburg Abroad, says that study abroad is an essential part of any liberal arts education but is especially important for Augsburg students because of the College’s mission. “It provides cultural learning in addition to academic learning,” she says.
Spinosa de Vega adds that study abroad gives students in all fields a competitive edge in the job market. “All jobs have something international,” she says, “whether it’s product, employees, or customers.” In addition to facilitating educational experiences abroad, CGE also gives students an opportunity to participate in internships as a part of their study.
The cost to study abroad is similar, says Spinosa de Vega, to studying, living, and eating on campus for one semester, so students who are concerned about finances should inquire about options. There are also many external scholarships available for programs abroad, including scholarships especially for students of color.
The deadline to apply for study abroad for the winter break (January 2010) or spring semester is October 1. Go to the Augsburg Abroad website for application materials and information.