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2023 Learning Abroad Conference

Co-sponsored by the Office for Education Abroad and the Office for International Students and Scholars, the annual MSU Learning Abroad Conference (LAC) features presentations from students returned from international learning experiences and international students currently studying abroad here in East Lansing.


The 2023 conference will consist of presentations where students will discuss how their education abroad experiences address issues related to this year’s theme, Growing through Challenge: Learning Abroad in a Time of Change.


Friday, November 17, 2023

International Center

Room 303

PANEL 1 - 1:00 to 2:00 pm

Language, Academics, and Personal Growth in a New Culture (Germany)

Michelle Sanda is an undergraduate student at MSU who studied abroad in Freiburg, Germany during her junior year. This presentation consists of the importance of studying abroad as a student and a person living in a multicultural world.

  • Michelle Sanda (USA)

The Same But Different: A divided Spain in times of change (Spain)

Finn studied abroad in Spain during the summer of 2023. In Spain, he encountered a country that has experienced division at many points throughout its history. His presentation demonstrates how that division often came from shared beliefs. He plans to apply that observation to the modern American context and discuss the ways in which shared beliefs can allow us to cooperate with and understand those with whom we disagree.

  • Finn Chambers (USA)

ZOOMing into international and multilingual challenges within online learning (USA)

Nadiah and Vivian are both students from Michigan State University and are proudly representing their esteemed research team, ‘Multilingual Learners’. This presentation will shed light on the often-overlooked obstacles multilingual and international students encounter, with the goal of fostering greater awareness and understanding among the student community with their research and video production.

  • Nadiah Hasnol (Malaysia)
  • Vivian Z. Martinez – Sandoval (USA)

Culture Shock and Culture Study (Kyrgyzstan)

Eleanor Pugh lived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for two months on a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship. There, she was often the first American that people she encountered had ever met. Living with a host family for an immersive cultural experience, Eleanor encountered culture shock that deepened her understanding of both American and Kyrgyz cultures. Eleanor’s presentation focuses on how her experiences broadened her view of the world and led her to pursue a career focused on cross-cultural learning and exchange.

  • Eleanor Pugh (USA)

PANEL 2 - 2:30 - 3:40 pm

Getting Shocked with the Cultural Shocks (Greece)

Sofia studied Business Law, Ethics and Sustainability in Greece. Sofia’s presentation will focus on her hesitancy regarding going abroad for the first time. She will dive deeper into the adjustments she made and the cultural shocks she encountered. Then, she will compare her adjustments to the other students as well, acknowledging that everyone moved at their own pace. To summarize it all, Sofia will speak of the mental health challenges while encountering so many cultural shocks as a young adult and student.

  • Sofia Buatti (USA)

Preferring Predictably: Social Policy, Religiosity, and Family Cohesion (Spain)

Lily studied abroad in Spain during July of 2023, prior to her freshman year at MSU. Using Hofstede’s Uncertainly Avoidance dimension as a measurement tool, she examined how attitudes surrounding social policy, religiosity, and family cohesion differ between Spain and the U.S. In turn, her research and learning abroad experiences helped her learn more about herself: both as a U.S. citizen and as a person with roots in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

  • Lily Pearl Dixon (USA)

Crossing Continents, Building Bridges (USA)

Toros and Nma, two American Semester Students visiting MSU for the Fall 2023 semester will share captivating personal stories that highlight the profound impact of global learning. From cultural immersion to academic enrichment and personal growth, their presentation explores the importance of adaptability and resilience in the changing world. They will share strategies for overcoming challenges and making the most of available resources.

  • Nma Dhahir (Iraq)
  • Toros Torossian (Syria)

Revisiting Practices in Education Abroad: Lessons Learned in Jaipur (India)

Amina Darabie, a current senior in Interdisciplinary Studies, served as a program assistant for an MSU study abroad program to Jaipur, India in the summer of 2023. The program ran in its pilot year in partnership with a local university (The Indian Institute for Craft and Design, IICD) teaching MSU and IICD students qualitative research methods through documentary filmmaking. Darabie has identified some challenges and benefits of intercultural education abroad as well as her preliminary findings, which serve as the groundwork for developments in the program curriculum to be made for its second iteration in the summer of 2024.

  • Amina Darabie (USA)

INCLUSIVITY THROUGH LANGUAGE: Lessons from Ireland to Connect With Our Indigenous Students and Community (Ireland)

This presentation uses my participation in the June 2023 semester of University College Dublin’s Irish Studies program to feature the importance of language to Michigan State University’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) values. During my studies, UCD’s professors made it clear the importance throughout their history of restoring Irish Gaelic in everyday use. My cohort spent our studies connecting this history to our experiences within the United States and our home states. Each year, on Indigenous People’s Day our students remind us that they’re still here. When will we listen? How can we work on honoring and connecting with our Indigenous students? Perhaps my study abroad experience holds a piece of the steps our university and other land-grant institutions can use moving forward. MSU is the first land-grant institution, restoring Anishinaabemowin in our community is imperative to supporting our Indigenous students and honoring our land-grant acknowledgement.

  • Kaya Madison Wilske (USA)

PANEL 3 - 4:00 - 5:00 pm

Redefining Education From the Pandemic (Belize)

Andre studied abroad in San Ignacio, Belize, where he participated in community engagement service learning with the students of Sacred Heart Junior college. His presentation uses information gathered from students and teaching faculty both from in Belize and from Michigan State University to highlight the difference in the way education was affected for both educators and students due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The aim is to grow awareness of the change in mentality in the way we learn on a global scale, no matter the country.

  • Andre Edmond (USA and Singapore)

Where are you from? (USA and France)

Murtaza Barkarar is an International Student born and raised in Dubai, with Indian roots. Murtaza studied for 6 weeks in Paris, France with a program through Lyman Briggs college. Murtaza will talk about encountering several differences in cultural practices between the US and France and how they each approach racism.

  • Murtaza Barkarar (India)

Goodness Overcomes All: Navigating the Unknown (Kenya)

Kayla Fowler, a junior majoring in Zoology at Michigan State University, studied abroad during the spring 2023 semester at a remote research camp in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Although she spent most of her time there learning as much as she could about what it means to be an animal behaviorist and a field researcher, Fowler also learned something more about how goodness transcends language, age, and cultural barriers. She left her experience having grown more not only as a student, but also as a person, than she thought possible.

  • Kayla Fowler (USA)

A-broad Ab-road (USA)

While A-broad means away from one’s country, Ab-road means away from a familiar road to pursue one’s dream in unfamiliar places. Based on that idea, our presentation showcases a short film project highlighting the International Student Ambassador program of MSU Office of Admissions as a pivotal resource for prospective students. This film delves into the multifaceted journey of international students at MSU, illustrating their adaptability, resilience, and the redefined concept of “studying abroad.” The narrated experiences depict challenges faced and the unforgettable stories crafted. Featuring international student ambassadors from diverse global backgrounds, the short film captures their shared empathy and curiosity to immerse in varying cultures. Despite the inevitable challenges of adapting to a distinct culture, these ambassadors recount memorable moments, epitomizing their collective yet individualized and growing experiences at Michigan State University.

  • Phuc Nguyen (Vietnam)
  • Maria Paz Del Aguila (Peru)
  • Jana Hassan (Egypt)