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Touting Taiwan: #EdBird reflects on study abroad experience

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As a new transfer student and a Mary F. English Scholar, Edward Blanco’s focus at Illinois State is to complete his degree in special education. The Guatemala native was taught the importance of education by his family, and he’s planning on returning home to support his community after graduation.

As a result of increasing globalization, employers are recognizing the value of hiring graduates who have studied abroad. Through these international experiences, Redbirds acquire global skills, learn to adapt to diverse situations, and develop cross-cultural competencies.

Through the Mary F. English Technology award, Blanco and the other English scholars are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities offered at Illinois State.

He chose Taiwan, a country 100 miles out from the coast of China, to gain a greater international understanding of the field. As part of the trip, Blanco stayed with a host family, took relevant course work, and shadowed the school systems in rural villages in Taipei, capital of Taiwan. Blanco also took an online course on the Taiwanese education system and the social issues of the area.

Blanco said he chose to study in Taiwan for two reasons: “It is not only one of the most affordable trips on campus, it’s a culture completely different from mine and from the norm of what I am used to. I learned so many things that have prepared me to be culturally responsive in a classroom setting,” he said.

Blanco believes the experience also helped him to embrace his own culture while developing an appreciation of unique aspects of the Asian nation.

He initially thought his personal finances might not allow for him to afford the trip abroad. However, he found out that there are several international scholarships offered by the College of Education designed to make studying abroad more affordable for aspiring teachers. Blanco earned multiple awards, paring down his expenses to an affordable investment in his education.

His advice for other Redbirds who might be on the fence because of budgetary reasons: said, “Do the scholarships! No one ever does the scholarships, and eventually, end up paying so much more than what they have been paying.”

Students with questions about studying abroad should reach out to The Office of International Studies and Programs.

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