Eurospring offers twist on learning

by Jambara Qualah

qualahja@mnstate.edu

Earning 15 credits over eight weeks in a different country may seem impossible, but one MSUM program is making it a reality.

For more than 30 years, Eurospring has been recruiting sophomores, juniors and seniors with a 2.5 GPA or higher to study and tour Europe.

The tour takes place during the spring semester. It allows students to study British society at Oxford for five weeks before going on a three-week tour to key cities, important sites, galleries and different individual interests of Europe.

The five-week stay also includes field trips and a theatre performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Director of Study Abroad Janet Haak said, “The program is not a mini vacation, it’s very challenging, but it’s also a great experience.”

Before the trip, students must meet certain requirements. They are required to write an essay, pay a deposit, take a prep course on campus, complete assignments, conduct research and attend orientation sessions.

“Students are to develop their own study plan, they have to learn how to function as a team,” Haak said.

During their time in Europe, students live with people they don’t know as part of the learning experience.

“They have to learn some cultural sensitivity,” Haak said.

Amy Hjelmstad, graduate student at MSUM, took part in Eurospring a few years ago.

“I extended my undergraduate degree by a semester just to participate in Eurospring and it is a decision I would make again in a heartbeat,” she said.

Hearing about past Eurospring students’ experiences and the bonds they created as a group from experiencing new things together, Hjelmstad decided she wanted to take the step.

“You will not have access to an opportunity like this once you graduate,” she said.

Eighty percent of the work students do before the trip informs them of the places they’ll visit and a good base of knowledge that the professors will expand on through the lectures and field trips.

While abroad, Hjelmstad said she not only took courses in women’s literature and theater, but also learned to think on her feet because “that is Eurospring.”

While the trip and experiences are mostly positive, Hjelmstad warned interested students to be cautious of pickpockets.

Despite that, she sees the overall experience as rewarding.

“Eurospring gives you a chance to visit many places,” she said.  “It’s like a travel starter pack.”

For Haak, who started working with the program six years ago, the benefits of watching students take in a new experience is her reward.

“Seeing a student weep over a meal because it was so good was unusual, but charming,” she said.

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