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Students immerse themselves in study abroad programs

University of North Georgia junior Jake Michaelson visits Prague in the Czech Republic during his study abroad. As a strategic studies major, Michaelson is required to complete a study abroad to graduate.

Attending the University of North Georgia (UNG) can open any student's eyes to career options. Studying abroad can further widen a student's horizon as he or she experiences a different culture.

"It is an experience where a person is learning in a classroom setting, but they are immersed into a different country and culture," said Sheila Schulte, associate vice president of international programs in the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) at UNG. "While there, the students get a better understanding of different people, places and culture."

Several degree programs and pathways take advantage of the 65 countries with study abroad opportunities connected to UNG. Of those 65 countries, UNG has direct partnerships and faculty-led programs in more than 30 countries for civilian students.

Two program require students to complete a study abroad — international affairs and strategic studies.

The university's Corps of Cadets has a vested interest. Since Army officers must be prepared to travel anywhere in the world, it is crucial for them to understand various cultures to make informed decisions. Therefore, a large percentage of cadets must study abroad before graduating.

With this in mind, UNG has consistently expanded the number of countries and schools to which cadets have access through study abroad. With the International Military Program, CGE has 36 active programs in 15 countries for the 2018-19 academic year, said Tony Fritchle, associate director for the CGE with a focus on military education programs. It is a 56 percent increase from the 2017-18 academic year.

Fritchle said UNG is working to partner with seven more countries for short- and long-term academic exchanges and military training opportunities. They include Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Austria, Kazakhstan, Canada, and United Kingdom.

The current partnerships are developed with countries in Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and South America. Cadets enter the study abroad programs through the Military Student Exchange, Strategic and Security Studies, International Internships, Cadet Professional Development, conferences and military training. Each offers a different kind of experience.

For example, the Cadet Exchange immerses and exposes cadets to the culture of foreign militaries.

"They will live, eat and train with the students from these universities," Fritchle said. "And one of the biggest learning outcomes is they were with their peers learning and building a relationship over time."

UNG partners with nine other military universities in the countries of Taiwan, Romania, Hungary, South Africa, Poland, Lativa, Germany, and Argentina.

Cadet Jake Michaelson, who is majoring in strategic studies, spent 12 weeks at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, Germany, through the Cadet Exchange Program.

Because he was born in Germany and speaks the language thanks to his German-born mother, Michaelson didn't experience the average cultural shock. Instead, he looked forward to the traditional German cuisine and the sightseeing trips through the country.

"We went on a Third Reich tour," the 20-year-old junior from Trinity, Florida, said. "It was interesting because I learned about the dark side of the history of Germany and about the Nazis."

Michaelson also enjoyed getting to know other cadets, including four from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

As Michaelson was an exchange student from January to April 2018, military students from Stellenbosch University in South Africa and Military Academy of Land Forces in Poland will attend UNG during the spring 2019 semester.

"The reality is we live in a global environment," Schulte said. "Gaining global competency will help students in their careers."

All Students interested in studying abroad whether a cadet or civilian may make an appointment with CGE or attend the study abroad fair in September 2018 on four of UNG's five campuses. Dates and times are:

  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, in the Hoag Student Center ABC Rooms on the Dahlonega Campus
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, in the lobby of the building on the Cumming Campus
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, in the Robinson Ballroom in the Student Center on the Gainesville Campus
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, in Student Resource Center Room 522 on the Oconee Campus.

Schulte encourages students to attend one of the fairs to understand the possibilities of studying abroad, as well as finding a way to pay for it.

"There is a cost, and we try to make it as affordable as possible," she said, adding that financial aid and scholarships help defer the cost. "But planning is important, and starting early is key."

For more information, visit the Center for Global Engagement webpage.

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