Bryce Armbruster

For many, studying abroad gives a deeper understanding of the world outside the United States. Miami University is holding two roundtable discussions to encourage students who have studied abroad to reflect on their experiences.

There will be two separate discussions taking place Feb. 12 and March 19. The Center for American and World Cultures, Office of Life-Long Learning, Office of International Education and the Luxembourg Program will host the roundtable events from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Great Room at MacMillan Hall.

Jacqueline Rioja Velarde, assistant director for the Center of American and World Cultures, is coordinating the program. She hopes students gain a global perspective in an increasingly interconnected world.

Velarde said students will be able to share what their study abroad experience meant to them, how it changed them, what they learned and how they plan to use their experiences in the future.

Faculty, staff and students who have studied abroad will serve as facilitators for the discussion.

More than 240 invitations were sent out to students who have studied abroad from the Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown campuses, Velarde said.

Velarde hopes that having students reflect in a group will cause them to have a new perspective on not only their study abroad experiences, but also their own life experiences as a whole.

Richard Menard, who studied abroad for two and half years as an undergrad at Texas Tech University, is now a study abroad adviser in the International Education department.

He said studying abroad is the most important thing a student can do during their educational career.

“It has gotten to the point where we’re not competing for jobs not just locally or nationally, but internationally,” Menard said. “We want to take their experience to the next level.”

Miami seems to share the value of study abroad, as it is the goal to have 50 percent of students study abroad, Menard said.

Menard believes that when the students discuss their ups and downs in other countries, they will see similarities in each others’ difficulties.

The students might find that despite drastically different study abroad environments, they encountered similar struggles, whether it was assimilating into a new culture, breaking through a language barrier or adapting to new surroundings.

Menard hopes that after some serious reflection with peers, students will take a step back and look at their place in the world, their place as an American and America’s position in the world.

Menard said living in a different country could help Miami students appreciate what they have at home a little more.

“It sometimes takes leaving America to realize what you have,” Menard said.

Students will also look at what made other students’ experiences abroad different from their own. They can see how the location may affect the experience and compare experiences from study abroad programs in other countries.

According to Velarde, students are more than happy to attend the discussion and share their experiences. Both Velarde and Menard called the last roundtable a success. Velarde added that she expects 60 to 70 students at each event this year.

“There is a motivation to come,” Velarde said. “We are simply facilitating and allowing people to come together.”