When students embark to study abroad, they seldom return with the same outlook they had before their travels.

“It was a complete change of lifestyle for me,” said Mallory Lithgow, a junior majoring in criminal justice sciences (CJS). 

Last summer, Lithgow and a tight-knit group of fellow students traveled to Europe with mentors Dr. Jacqueline Schneider, professor of criminal justice sciences, and Dr. Susan Woollen, director of undergraduate studies and enrollment management in the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences. While there, they received a history lesson that they will never forget. The group visited historical sites from the Holocaust, obtaining a tangible sense of the unimaginable injustices that took place while learning how to stand up against future atrocities. 

The trip was so moving that Lithgow and fellow CJS major Carson Hinshaw have decided to go again this summer.

For students searching for a life-changing study abroad experience, we have highlighted three opportunities on three different continents. To find more information and additional study abroad opportunities, visit Illinois State’s Study Abroad webpage.

Social Justice: Trip Through Genocide

Next deadline: February 1, 2021

Contact: Dr. Jacqueline Schneider 

Started two years ago, this annual summer trip gives students a unique opportunity to learn about social justice through real-world experiences.

“I think what makes this trip so different from other study abroad experiences is that we are together pretty much morning until evening,” said Schneider. “We experience some of the most horrific, emotional, and even controversial sites in the world. The way we process these horrors makes us a cohesive, emotionally tied group.”

The group spends 11 days in the summer traveling across Europe. They visit concentration camps Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz, as well as multiple prisons and museums in Germany and Poland. This year, Schneider has added the Netherlands to the trip itinerary. While there, they will visit the Anne Frank House as well as The Hague, the legal center of modern genocide trials. Students can receive three or six credit hours for taking the class International Experiences in Criminal Justice (CJS 306) as a part of the trip.

“There are many lessons to be learned from the Holocaust,” said Woollen. “One is remembrance, and the other is to educate. This trip serves both of those purposes.”

The trip’s lessons resonated with Lithgow and Hinshaw. “Without somebody fighting back, there isn’t going to be any social justice,” said Hinshaw. “Bad things will continue to happen until somebody stands up.”

At the end of each trip thus far, Schneider has witnessed the permanent impact it’s had on her students. 

“On our last night, which is the Auschwitz visit, I always ask students to reflect on who they were at O’Hare and who they are now,” said Schneider. “You can see that even people’s physical beings have transformed. It gives me chills just thinking about it.”

Above all else, the students and mentors alike cherish the relationships they build over the course of their 11 days together.

“The type of relationships that we build during the study abroad trip are never replicated or duplicated in the classroom or the student organization,” said Woollen. “That’s because we come together as a family, and that just changes the whole dynamic.”

For more information, please visit the trip’s webpage.

A view of the Heian Shrine in Kyoto.

The exterior of the Heian Shrine in Kyoto. Photo credit: Christopher Meier

Japan: Kansai Gaidai University

Next deadline: March 15

Contact: Dr. Roger Thomas 

For students who want a well-rounded experience in Japan, there may be no better location than Kansai Gaidai University. Located in Hirakata, the university is situated between Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, and historic Kyoto.

“This trip was honestly the highlight of my life thus far,” said Christopher Meier, a junior international business major who spent an entire year at Kansai Gaidai. “It changed my understanding of the world and gave me a new perspective on not only Japan but humanity as a whole.”

Students can choose to attend Kansai Gaidai for the fall semester, spring semester, full academic year, or for six weeks in the summer. The university offers a wide range of courses, allowing students to earn the credits they need to stay on track with their plan of study at Illinois State.

“The curricular offerings at Kansai Gaidai are more varied than most study abroad destinations,” said Dr. Roger Thomas, professor of languages, literatures, and cultures. “Their Japanese language program offers the flexibility of differential placement in reading and writing versus oral comprehension.”

Gage Morgan, a senior television production major, spent six weeks at Kansai Gaidai last summer. He took classes in language and history and even tried his hand at calligraphy, briefly joining the school’s club.

“An important part of university life in Japan is club involvement, which they strongly encourage as an opportunity to make Japanese friends and participate in campus life,” said Thomas.

Despite their varying lengths in visits, Meier and Morgan both cemented lifelong friendships during their time at Kansai Gaidai.

“My favorite part of the trip was the friends I made,” said Morgan. “I still talk to many of them to this day.”

For more information, please visit the trip’s webpage.

A scenic view of the rooftops of Valparaiso, Chile.

A scenic view of the rooftops of Valparaiso, Chile. Photo credit: Study Abroad

Chile: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV)

Next deadline: March 15

Contact: Dr. Juliet Lynd 

If you’ve ever wanted to live on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, studying abroad in Valparaiso, Chile, might be the perfect place for you.

“What makes it special among ISU offerings is the opportunity to take course work in Spanish, live with a host family, and meet locals in Valparaiso,” said Dr. Juliet Lynd, associate professor of Spanish and Latin American studies. As the trip is not faculty-led, students have the opportunity to independently immerse themselves in the city and culture. Fellow study abroad students at the university come from the United States as well as internationally.

Students take Latin American literature courses as well as courses covering various cultural topics–Chilean history, history of dictatorship and democracy, and history of the indigenous population, to name a few.

Outside the classroom, students have the opportunity to obtain local internships for credit.

“The on-site staff coordinates these internships that could be in local schools, local health clinics, local community organizations,” said Lynd. “It gives students the opportunity to branch out and experience different aspects of life in Chile and serve different needs in the community.”

Only 45 minutes from the capital city of Santiago, Valparaiso is a prime location for students looking to experience all that the country has to offer. Students often visit historical sites in Santiago, as well as local sites related to the famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

As the course work is in Spanish, students must complete SPA 116: Second Year Spanish Part II or an equivalent course before this trip.

For more information, please visit the trip’s webpage.