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Grand Valley Students Take Their Learning Abroad


The opportunity to study abroad is something every Grand Valley student can have access to – and the Padnos International Center (PIC) is ensuring that possibility.

Studying abroad provides students with the chance to experience a new culture and prepares them for a variety of careers. The skills learned outside the classroom combined with our liberal arts education sets Grand Valley graduates apart.

“I get job offers every single day,” says Rebecca Owen ’12, who uses her Japanese language skills in her current job as a bilingual operations analyst at FT Techno of America. “Being a part of the study abroad program really sets you apart from all of the competition.”

Natasia Long, a current Grand Valley State University student who interned for a small start-up company, Pedius, in Rome, Italy, says she gained insights to herself that she wouldn’t have obtained any other way.

“I now have much more confidence in myself,” she says. “Going into the Study Abroad First Steps meeting, I really didn’t think I could do it because of my financial background. But this experience helped me realize that I could do anything if I set my mind to it, and that anything is accomplishable.”

Nathan Axdorff ’16, who interned at Studentenwerk in Dresden, Germany, learned to value a sense of community which he has since applied to his life at Grand Valley.

“Going to Germany really helped influence my cultural competency working with international students from all around the world,” he says. “It helped me figure out that this is where I want to go with my future career.”

Study Abroad

Study Abroad

Study Abroad

All three of these Lakers were significantly impacted by the receipt of a study abroad scholarship. Grand Valley believes study abroad is a profound educational experience that should be accessible to all. With the availability of funding like the Mark A. & Elizabeth C. Murray Scholarship for Study Abroadand the Barbara H. Padnos International Scholars program, the opportunity to experience other cultures and gain new insights and skills is becoming a reality for many Grand Valley students.

Grand Valley students have access to more than 80 learning opportunities abroad, including corporate internships and partnerships with other universities.

“Being able to have that opportunity to go [to Japan] opened up so many doors, amazing doors,” shares Rebecca, who attended the prestigious International Christian University in Tokyo.

Natasia adds, “This program helps students become stronger leaders and stronger peers. I want to share my great experience to help other students take advantage of that opportunity.”

While studying at John Cabot University, Natasia was able to further immerse herself in the culture through her internship at Pedius. She says that being the only English speaker at the company helped her become more adaptable and focus on improving her communication skills.

“I had to utilize communicating without have the verbal language to rely on,” she says. “I focused on body language and facial expressions, a skill I really only could have picked up in that environment.”

Nathan was also able to hone his leadership skills at his internship with Studentenwerk, an organization that provides support for students in German universities: “One of the programs I helped create for students was a weekly international coffee hour, where I would meet students from around the world and I would help facilitate conversation.” He also assisted the international student coordinator with ensuring other visiting U.S. students had a great experience abroad.

Study Abroad

Study Abroad

Study Abroad

Without scholarships, these experiences may not have been a possibility.

“When I found out that I was a scholarship recipient, it was like a light shone down and just said, ‘this is your path,’” says Rebecca. “Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to go. This scholarship and this experience changed my life.”

Nathan adds, “Receiving the Murray Scholarship and going to Germany influenced my life and impacted my career decision to work with international students and immigrants.”

The support from Grand Valley donors has made all the difference for these students.

“You have to think about the opportunities that you provide for someone when you give to a scholarship like this,” says Rebecca. “You’re not just giving them financial help. The moment I stepped off that plane in Japan, my life was different. You can’t go back from that. And I just can’t thank [donors] enough for giving me the opportunity to do that.”

“I believe that the support is really a gift that keeps on giving,” adds Natasia. “When you think about the money you put in, you’re enabling someone, like myself, to cultivate leadership skills. You never know the life that you impact and it really shaped me to become a better person. Thank you so, so much.”