IES Abroad EU Program
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Melissa Gess

Major: International Politics and Criminology
Minor: German
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this experience while working one morning. I had expressed to a co-worker that I wanted to study abroad, but did not know what program I would be interested in. I told her my majors and that I had always been interested in studying abroad in Germany. She happened to be a part of the Penn State Global Abroad Program and recommended this program to me. As soon as she explained what it was, I knew this was the perfect program and applied immediately.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience has been great! I joined this program for three reasons: 1) to improve my German speaking ability 2) to travel and 3) to have a better understanding of the European Union. This program has fulfilled all three of those areas and more. I have traveled to more than twenty-two different cities within Europe, some with this program and some for personal experiences, and each place I have gone I have learned something new. I have grown both academically and personally. I have gained more of a sense of independence being on my own and away from family, and have also been able to find more of an inner connection with myself. This trip has brought me new friends and a new understanding of life, and I really have to thank this program for giving me that ability.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I did not understand much about the European Union upon entering this program, only a few things from the classes I had taken at Penn State. I have gotten to learn so many different things on both an academic and a personal level. The classes I took here were at times academically challenging, but in the end I feel as though I am more prepared for my major and have even found new areas of interest. Traveling to different cities was a mandatory part of this program, and we got to listen to different speakers, some of whom spoke academically and others of their life experiences. These trips really helped to tie things together with what we were learning in the classroom and gave me a new perspective on the things I was learning. We also were able to hear the perspectives from different Members of Parliament and politicians on their countries position within the EU. Through this program I was also able to expand my German language skills, although maybe not as much as I would have liked, since it is very easy to speak English with everyone here. Other than that, I have really been able to grow academically.

"These trips really helped to tie things together with what we were learning in the classroom and gave me a new perspective on the things I was learning."

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My current majors are International Politics and Criminology, and I joined this program mostly to fulfill my degree requirements for my International Politics major. It took me awhile to find where these two degrees intersect and where my interests lie, but this program really helped me narrow it down. At the end of this program, I will be completing an internship with the European Parliament which will hopefully help my long term career goals of possibly joining the State Department and focusing on counter terrorism. Upon graduation from Penn State, I intend to join the United States Air Force before potentially looking at a career with the State Department. This program has really been able to affirm my interests and the career path I am going towards. I have not completed the internship yet, but I am hoping it will answer my remaining questions about where I might be heading with my future.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would highly recommend this to students fulfilling a major in international politics. This program really helps in understanding politics on a global level, and it helps that you get to travel and see how these policies affect these countries. You also get the opportunity to meet with Members of Parliament, politicians, and Foreign Affairs Ministers (if you are lucky enough) which is every Political Science major’s dream!

For more on global opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website
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