Alumnus Scott Osdras’ study abroad to China as an MSU student double majoring in Chinese and Comparative Cultures and Politics ignited in him what would become his future career as a Program Officer for study and research abroad programs at American Councils for International Education, where he is involved in the study abroad process for undergraduate and graduate students.
“My very first time abroad, I studied in Beijing, China, through the Critical Language Scholarship program, which is an eight-week summer program that’s fully funded by the State Department,” said Osdras, who graduated from MSU in 2012. “The program was administered by American Councils for International Education, which is actually how I heard about American Councils in the first place. That trip gave me a really good introduction to the value of study abroad and it sparked my interest to want to continue pursuing other overseas opportunities and eventually helping others do the same.”
This past summer, Osdras led a four-week study abroad program through American Councils to Taipei, Taiwan, that introduced topics of Taiwan’s culture, politics, and history. During the program, students attended English and Chinese language lecture classes, had opportunities to travel into Taipei, visited political headquarters, discussed Taiwan’s methods of sustainability, and visited a recycling center.
“I think [studying abroad] is important because it opens up so many opportunities in terms of a future career, especially if you know other critical languages,” Osdras said. “Getting those experiences in different countries and with different cultures offers new ways of thinking. When you come back from studying abroad, you realize things that you never gave a second thought to, so having a different perspective on how other cultures live allows you to reevaluate your own values and customs.”
As a Program Officer for American Councils, Osdras is involved in all stages of the study abroad process. He works closely with host institutions in Asian countries to design study abroad programs, promotes programs by reaching out to students and study abroad offices across the country, creates pre-departure orientations, hires resident directors to monitor and work with students, processes student evaluations after the trips are over, and is responsible for staying in touch with funders of study abroad programs along with reaching out to new potential funders.
“Studying abroad definitely helps clear up misconceptions about other countries. It’s easy to see other countries as either good or bad, especially when people are really only represented by their government,” Osdras said. “When you go and live in these counties, though, you see people as individuals and appreciate their hospitality. If we’re going to cooperate globally, I think it’s crucial that people have different cultural experiences in other countries.”
Written by Annie Dubois