New Semester Abroad Program Enhances Ministry Training
Today’s MLC students are on the move. They volunteer for Daylight USA ministry trips all over the country. They participate in immersion programs in China or Argentina. They teach for a year in Russia, Peru, Southeast Asia, or the Caribbean.
Each journey integrates academic and experiential learning. Each enlarges students’ perspectives and enhances their preparation for ministry, which is—after all—a global endeavor.
Now MLC offers another educational opportunity: a semester abroad program.
Students enroll for a semester at a university outside the United States and take courses that transfer back to MLC. Afterward, they’ll graduate and be available for assignment—or matriculation at the seminary—with the rest of their class.
“On-time graduation is one of our goals,” says Director of International Services Thomas Hunter DMLC ’75. “So we encourage students who are interested in studying abroad to begin planning for it already their first year here.”
Juniors Crystal Carmichael and Erin Feddersen, who are studying in Ireland this semester, as well as Collin Wenzel, who will study in Germany next semester, began preparing for their semester abroad soon after they entered college.
These students will tell you it takes a fair amount of initiative and courage to embark on an entire semester away from everything they know. Collin, for instance, admits that he’s never even flown. But the blessings are worth it.
“There are so many benefits to studying abroad,” says International Coordinator Megan Kassuelke, who recently visited Carmichael and Feddersen in Limerick. “Gaining confidence and maturity, broadening your knowledge of other countries and your respect for other cultures, increasing your interpersonal communication skills, and improving your language proficiency.”
Professor Hunter adds to the list: “Increasing problem solving and critical thinking skills, and recognizing your own cultural values and biases. Any experience like this—where you’re thrown into a completely different environment—promotes personal, professional, and spiritual growth.
“Spiritually,” he continues, “the students find that they have to get into their Bibles on their own, because there may not be a WELS church nearby. They study the Word alone and with one another. They learn to explain and defend their faith to others, both Christians and non-Christians.”
Semester abroad experiences may be new on our campus, but they dovetail smoothly with MLC’s mission: “With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the college desires to strengthen the student in a consecrated spirit of love for God and his Word; to educate the student for faithful, capable, intelligent citizenship in today’s world; to assist the student in acquiring the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed for service in the church and for lifelong learning; and to encourage the student in developing and demonstrating a heart for service in the church, community, and world.
Senior Leah Nass (St. Paul-Howards Grove WI) took a three-week course in London last year. She perhaps says it best: “Study abroad offers you more than a few credits toward graduation. It offers you the experience of a lifetime: an opportunity to experience life from another culture’s point of view, to meet new people and make new friends, to see sites you previously only saw in pictures, and most importantly, to confidently witness your faith to others, both in word and deed.”
IRELAND: Fall 2016
Crystal Carmichael (Living Hope-Shakopee MN) and Erin Feddersen (Shepherd of the Bay-Lusby MD) are spending this semester at the University of Limerick.
Both women are double majoring in elementary ed and secondary PE at MLC. The credits they’re gaining in Limerick—in math, physics, PE, health, and curriculum and instruction—will transfer back.
They have a blog/vlog at blogs.mlc-wels.edu/study-abroad/2016. Their posts are both silly and serious. Here are a few excerpts:
Irish people are very passionate and proud about their sports and music. Last week during orientation, an Irish musical group called Celtic Steps came and performed for all the international students. And Erin and I attended a Gaelic Sport session, where we learned how to play hurling and Gaelic football.
Professors, instructors, and teachers go by their first names. It’s a little weird writing emails to them because you feel like you’re being improper, but it’s just the way they do things over here! The teachers are very laid back, wearing jeans and polos to class. Classes don’t start before nine because they believe that anything before that is far too early.
Ireland is filled with beauty, and we’ve only explored a little part of it. Ireland is very green. Ireland has a lot of fun castles to climb. Ireland has got some great views. I feel like I breathe better in Ireland. Do they have more oxygen here since it is greener?
The weather is unpredictable. The morning will start out windy and cool, in the afternoon it will downpour, and then the evening will be clear and sunny. The people here say you can get all four seasons in one day. I believe it! Erin and I both have raincoats and are prepared!
I know full well that not everything will go smoothly while I’m abroad. I’ll face trials of many kinds. It will be an adjustment to not have classmates who share the same faith and not have a chapel to go to every day.
What calms my fears the most is the knowledge that no matter where I go, the Lord will never leave me. The Lord will always provide for me. I rejoice with the opportunities he has given me, and I cannot wait to share his name and what he has done with people all over the world!
GERMANY: Spring 2017
Collin Wenzel (Mount Olive-Appleton WI) will spend second semester of his junior year studying at Freie Universität in Berlin.
He’ll take 12 credits in German language, history, and culture—all of which will transfer back to his preseminary program at MLC. To accommodate this semester abroad, he took his first required year of Hebrew as a sophomore instead of a junior. He’ll finish his second when he returns.
Collin is especially looking forward to improving his language skills and visiting the Luther sites—which in 2017, the 500th anniversary of Reformation, will be especially meaningful.
“I pray this will enhance my ministry training by teaching me how to connect with people of a different background and culture,” he says.
Three more preseminary students are planning on a semester in Berlin in the 2017-18 school year.