Grads Go Abroad

Seeing the World through a Graduate Lens

In Athens, she took a Mediterranean cooking class. In Greece, she traveled to different ports via ferry. In Hungary, she visited an orphanage and learned about the refugee crisis. Her name is Stephanie McInnis ‘16, and these are just a few of the study abroad experiences that she had as a graduate student abroad.

Studying abroad as a graduate student may look a little different than doing so as an undergraduate, but it is every bit as rewarding. If you missed your chance to study abroad during your undergraduate program (or maybe you’d like to do it again), you still have a chance! MCOM students have the opportunity to study abroad with the Department of Communication each summer, and this summer, our communication professors are leading trips to Austria, Cambodia, Italy, Poland, and Thailand.

  • May 15-June 15, 2018: Study abroad in Salzburg, Austria, Florence, Italy, and Krakow, Poland with Dr. Robert Westerfelhaus and Dr. Celeste Lacroix
  • July 6-30, 2018: Study abroad in Thailand and Cambodia with Dr. Merissa Ferrara

Though these programs are primarily designed for undergraduate course credit, graduate students that participate work closely with professors to tailor the travel to fit their professional and academic goals, thus earning independent enrollment credit at the graduate level. For example, study abroad learning experiences are great opportunities to enroll in an independent study or pedagogy coursework while earning anywhere from three to six credits for the travel experience. You could earn those credits while hiking Machu Picchu, swimming with elephants, or enjoying a waffle in Belgium.

MCOM alumna, Stephanie McInnis, did both while she was abroad in Italy, Greece, and Hungary with Dr. Merissa Ferrara and Professor Val Wright: This was a communications trip for undergraduates, and I worked as a teaching assistant and completed an independent study while abroad. Due to my focus in health communications, I helped teach theory and other health communication related topics throughout our time in Europe.

For her independent study, Stephanie blended her love for food magazines with the unique food and culture she was experiencing. She shared:

“I knew that as I entered the workforce, building and perfecting various skills is important in selling yourself to possible employers. Therefore, I chose to combine my love for food with a skill I didn’t previously possess, Adobe Photoshop. I combined recipes and images to create a magazine spread in Photoshop. It was a great opportunity to teach myself a program and focus on something I love, which is food magazines like Gourmet Traveler. While traveling, I was inspired by the incredible cuisine and culture, which helped form my ideas and vision for the spread.”

As mentioned, this summer, Dr. Ferrara is once again leading a group abroad — this time to Thailand and Cambodia. While talking to her about the upcoming trip, she shared that this trip will focus on responsible tourism, culture, and engaging in community. These themes would be especially applicable to graduate students who are interested in public relations or hospitality. Dr. Ferrara mentioned that graduate students on this trip could expect a lot of freedom in their choice of study. Imagine studying culture alongside Burmese refugees or Buddhist Monks in a mountain-top temple in Thailand! Additionally, Dr. Ferrara encouraged graduate students to look into the great study abroad incentives offered by the College. Personal finances should not dictate whether or not you can study abroad, and you should take advantage of such opportunities while you can.

Another MCOM alumna, Maggie White ‘11, took advantage of the chance to study abroad twice during her schooling. Her first trip abroad was led by Dr. Celeste Lacroix and Dr. Robert Westerfelhaus to Italy, Germany, and Austria. She shared, “Due to my unique position on the trip, the two professors were able to alter the curriculum they had planned for the undergrads so that the classes they taught would be applicable to my graduate degree. They did this by adding or altering assignments to make the courses more in line with my aptitude and interests.” As a nontraditional student on the trip, Maggie said that she appreciated having more time with the professors and felt that she learned more because of the one-on-one opportunities for discussion and engagement.

On her second trip abroad, this time on a fellowship that she was awarded to teach at the University of Versailles, Maggie conducted an independent study about women in different cultures and how they communicate. Her studies in the classroom were important, but she gained so much while learning outside of it:

“Education is what you make it and there is so much to be learned outside of the classroom. To be able to complement that traditional classroom learning model with international, cultural, in-the-field experiences made my graduate studies more whole. Being outside of the school boundaries also made me communicate differently and more often with my professors. This lead to us developing my curriculum as a team and that made the whole course of study both more enjoyable and more applicable to my future professional path.”

As a graduate student, this is your chance to have that unique, in-the-field experience. Studying abroad can do much more than offer you credit toward degree completion. Alongside Dr. Ferrara (, Dr. Lacroix (, or Dr. Westerfelhaus (, you can make the most of your summer and your independent study hours!

If you can see yourself sipping wine on the Amalfi coast, or caravanning through the desert by camel back, consider applying for one of the life-changing, high-impact learning experiences being offered. But don’t forget, application deadlines are quickly approaching, so make sure to contact one of the study abroad coordinators or Dr. Ruth-McSwain if you are interested in going abroad this summer.

Do you have a unique experience studying abroad that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Until next time,



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