Vanessa Schmit had big dreams growing up. Traveling around the world as a student was at the top of the list.
“I have wanted to study abroad since I was a freshman in high school, and I never had the real opportunity to do so,” she said.
While she knew going to a technical college was the best fit for her, she worried about finding a place that allowed an opportunity to travel the world.
That’s when Schmit discovered the newly established study abroad options at Western. It’s where she also discovered her passion for the Criminal Justice program.
“Having a place that offered study abroad options, and was still a technical college, was such a win-win for me,” she said.
This past June, Schmit became one of the first students to utilize the program, traveling to Carlow College in Carlow, Ireland. Because the Criminal Justice program continues through the Summer Term, Schmit decided to remain enrolled in classes that took place at Western as well. Throughout her time abroad, Schmit’s Criminal Justice instructors accommodated her needs and supported her throughout the process.
“They were really supportive of what I wanted to do,” Schmit said. “They wanted what’s best for me.”
“I think it underscores the supportiveness of our faculty and the excitement they have for our students to have this opportunity,” said Linda Duffy, a Communication Arts instructor at Western, as well as the College’s study abroad program coordinator.
Duffy has long advocated for study abroad programs at Western. Over the last several years, she secured funding from her academic dean to join the Illinois Consortium for International Study Programs, which in turn, allowed Western students to travel abroad.
As a result, Western currently offers two study abroad opportunities for its students. The first is a two-credit, 10-day international excursion every May. In 2019, the excursion was to Italy. The program focuses on intercultural communication and travel. Following the trip, students use the experience to complete a final course project.
The second, which Schmit utilized, is a full-term study abroad session in one of several international locations. Those locations include Austria, Costa Rica, England, France, India, Ireland, and Spain. Generally, except in Vanessa’s case, a student will typically enroll in 3-9 credits abroad.
Despite taking classes literally across the world, Schmit was able to earn As in all of her classes. In the meantime, she was able to absorb Irish culture through her stay.
“It was truly amazing,” Schmit said. “It’s something I would recommend. It’s a very welcoming environment.”
Duffy hopes the program will continue to grow this following year. Information sessions will be available for interested Western students during the Fall Term.
The Study Abroad program will be hosting informational sessions this fall. See below for details:
- 9/18 from 11:30-12:30 p.m. Students from all campuses may participate since the sessions will be broadcast via ITV: La Crosse Coleman 305, Black River Falls 110, Independence 129, Mauston 103, Tomah 228, and Viroqua 133).
- 9/19 (online via Zoom) at 5:00 p.m. https://zoom.us/j/744318958
- 9/20 from 11:30-12:30 p.m. Students from all campuses may participate since the sessions will be broadcast via ITV: La Crosse Coleman 305, Black River Falls 110, Independence 129, Mauston 103, Tomah 228, and Viroqua 133).