STPEC Student Spotlight: Melissa Myers '18 explores the world, one language at a time

Melissa Myers

Melissa Myers / Photo Credit: Ebru Kardan

Melissa Myers ’18, a senior double majoring in Social Thought and Political Economy and Journalism, came to the University of Massachusetts determined to study abroad. Now, after her time abroad, Melissa looks back on how a simple choice to learn French in high school led to a momentous journey with cities and countries traversed, languages and lessons learned.

While most students who study abroad may spend time in one country for a single summer or semester, Myers wanted more, spending two semesters in France, and Morocco. Her destinations were picked carefully and deliberately, taking into account how it would directly benefit her education and drawing upon what she learned in the International Scholars Program. “I narrowed down that I wanted to go to France to improve my language skills, and I also wanted to go to a more non-traditional study abroad location to learn a little bit more about the world outside of western Europe,” Myers explains. “I decided to go to Morocco because it’s really interesting in terms of its political, cultural, and language landscape.”

Her passion for language and culture also found a home at the International Programs Office (IPO) where she is an Education Abroad Peer Advisor.  After completing the IPO application process herself, she now advises other students on how to find programs that will meet their academic, career and personal goals.

Myers also credits IPO for helping make the most of her two semesters abroad by providing courses like Honors 251: International Issues Seminar and Honors 252: Cross-Cultural Preparation Seminar that covered essential topics like globalization and culture shock. She also focused on her conversational French skills by participating in study groups and the Francophone club with classmates and friends. Myers had also taken two semesters of Arabic, which was a great asset for her time in Morocco.

Another resource Myers took advantage of was the SBS Advising Resource Center (ARC). She credits the ARC for helping her find her personal pathway and guiding her towards a major that encompasses so many of her interests and passions, and complimented her interest in education abroad. “I went to advising and said ‘I'm really interested in political science, economics, women’s studies, gender and Afro-American studies’ and they said ‘we have a major for that!’”. Coupled with valuable resources such as advice about internships and courses relating to her major, she feels that her advisors set her up with a robust foundation to achieve her academic and personal goals.

During her time at UMass, Myers has also become involved in an assortment of campus organizations. From working with peers in residence life to performing skits as a member of Shaha: The Storytellers, a peer theatre, social justice, and diversity based educational group, Myers has been deeply involved in co-curricular activities.  Myers also champions these causes through activism on campus around issues like reproductive justice, and raising awareness around transgender and non-gender conforming people’s rights as part of Gender Liberation UMass (GLU).

Asked for advice she would give fellow students considering studying abroad, Myers recommends looking at nontraditional places like her second semester abroad in Morocco, which complemented a traditional study abroad destination like France in meaningful ways. “In Morocco, something that's really interesting is that they really navigate bilingualism a lot in that they switch between Arabic, the local dialect of Arabic, French, sometimes even Spanish and English all in one sentence, so you wind up learning not only different languages, but also how to navigate different cultures really well.” Experiences like these, Myers says, have stayed with her helping her become more confident independent and self-reliant. 

Reflecting on her senior year at UMass, Myers says her study abroad experiences have pushed her to broaden her thinking and perspective. “I’ve loved the organizing and activism that I’ve done on campus and was looking at doing small scale community organizing in the U.S.” While these passions continue to guide her, she now considers these issues with a global perspective in mind. With her eye on new horizons like applying for a Fulbright scholarship and joining the peace corps, Myers is ready to start yet another momentous journey.

Interested in studying abroad? Check out this new opportunity.

The International Programs Office has a new study abroad opportunity at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa launching in Summer 2018. This seven-week program will earn you a semester's worth of UMass credits (13-15) in disciplines such as Political Science, History, Economics, and Sociology. The total cost for the program (including tuition, airfare, housing, and food) is thousands of dollars less than a semester of in-state tuition and on-campus housing at UMass! 

-- By Mythreyi Krishnan, SBS Commmunications Manager