Students Gain Experience, Perspective Through Foreign Study

Students like Dante Barksdale (center) find that studying abroad offers opportunities to learn about local culture, as when the USAC group participated in a traditional festival in Galicia, Spain.

Dante Barksdale wanted to improve his language skills. Jonathon Quevedo wanted to experience a slower-paced life away from big cities. Susana Arellano wants to understand how people from different cultures take care of their sick.

Barksdale, Quevedo and Arellano are among the several dozen CSU Stanislaus students who study abroad each year — and for whom foreign study is both a way to achieve their academic goals and discover life experiences they will never forget.

A history major, Barksdale spent a semester studying in Madrid through the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), which offers more than 25 different programs.

“I had more fun experiences than I can count,” he said. “I flew down to Morocco, rode a camel and surfed. All of us in the USAC program went to a national qualifying soccer match between Spain and France.”

Foreign study is encouraged by the university because it is recognized as a high-impact learning practice that increases graduation rates.

“When students study abroad, they return with a broader perspective, a sense of independence and more self-confidence, ” said Marjorie Jaasma, director of the Office of International Education. “Their career options multiply, because employers recognize the interpersonal skills students develop through a foreign study experience.”

Quevedo, who is majoring in history with a Latin American studies minor, plans to enter the credential program after he graduates this spring. He spent the summer in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

“I have a better understanding of the way other people live and another culture,” Quevedo said. “It helps you become a more well-rounded person and helps you look at situations from different angles and from other points of view.”

Arellano is on track to graduate in May with a B.S. in nursing, and she hopes to specialize in wound care. During winter intersession, she is traveling to Cuenca, Ecuador, with instructors Judy Keswick and Mechelle Perea-Ryan, along with 15 nursing students. They will stay with host families while learning about healthcare from a cultural perspective.

“We will be seeing how people in this very poor country treat their sick,” Arellano said. “I hear we are even going to visit a witch doctor.”

What would these students tell someone who is considering spending a month, semester or even a year studying abroad? “Do it,” said Barksdale, “but enjoy your time, because it flies by faster than you can even imagine.”

“It is a must for bettering yourself and helping you to grow as a person,” Quevedo said. “And what better time to go than when you are young and in college?”

The Office of International Education office coordinates both the USAC (one semester) and the yearlong CSU International Program. Financial aid is available. To learn more, visit or call (209) 667-3117.