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Kristin Schmidt, "typical" WEC student and Gilman Scholar, studying in Helsinki

gilman_schmidtAnyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. ~Henry Ford

My name is Kristin Schmidt, and I am currently a WEC senior majoring in business management. I am a typical WEC student—a middle aged adult (I use that term loosely) taking classes, working full time, and raising a family. However, during winter term I will be anything but typical. I am enrolled in classes with one of Augsburg’s exchange partners, Arcada College in Helsinki, Finland.

For the next three months, I will be going to school full-time and sharing an apartment with two other exchange students. And since I am not eligible for a work visa, I won’t be working either.

Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? I’m majoring in business—and business is international—so it makes sense that my education is international as well. Just because I’m older doesn’t necessarily mean I have fewer learning opportunities. It means I have more responsibilities and commitments that may limit my learning opportunities. There’s a difference. The key is to find a way to align responsibilities with educational goals and broaden the opportunities.

I’m not saying this study abroad was accomplished easily—very far from it. I spent about a year researching the various programs and finding ways to not only pay for the trip itself but also to cover my financial and family obligations at home. I could not have this alone.

By working closely with the Augsburg Abroad staff, I was able to sift through numerous study abroad options, both short- and long-term programs. Other than the weather, which is similar to a “usual” Minnesota winter, Helsinki was the perfect choice. I will be exposed to a different culture for an extended period of time while taking classes that count toward my major requirements.

As for figuring out how to pay for it all, filling out a FAFSA opened the door to possible government grants and loans, not to mention need-based scholarships. There are also various non-need based scholarships that are offered both by the College and private organizations. A simple internet search can uncover an infinite amount of available opportunities.

My family was involved in the whole research process, and over the course of time they came to realize how important studying abroad was to me. I knew I had their full support. However, I work for a smaller company that has no policy for educational absences. I wondered how supportive my boss and co-workers would be. After pleading my case to the powers that be and answering a few questions, I was granted a leave of absence. I guess it really doesn’t hurt to ask.

I am very excited about this opportunity to study at Arcada College in Helsinki. During my time abroad, I will be writing articles much like this one, sharing my experiences. My hope is that by reading about my adventures, perhaps you, too, will start thinking of studying abroad and starting an adventure of your own.

This article was made possible in part by the Gilman Scholarship. For more information on this scholarship*, please visit the Gilman website or attend a workshop.

Thursday, Feb. 2, 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm Scheduled Christensen Center Cedar Room OR

Friday, Feb. 10, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm Scheduled Christensen Cedar Room

*You must be US Citizen AND receive a Pell Grant to be eligible for this scholarship.

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