Missouri State-West Plains Student Success Stories
New Beginnings … Endless Possibilities
Bethany Howell loves to travel, and thanks to two study away opportunities available through Missouri State University-West Plains, the West Plains resident and graduate of Ozarks Christian Academy has been able to scratch that itch.
In fall 2013, Bethany followed in the footsteps of her two older brothers and older sister, all of whom also attended Missouri State-West Plains, and participated in the China Study Away Program, an educational cooperation project between the Missouri State University System and Liaoning Normal University (LNU) in Dalian, China. The program gives Missouri State-West Plains' students the opportunity to spend a semester in China learning about Chinese culture, history and language while earning credit toward the Associate of Arts in General Studies degree.
She entered the program just a couple of months after she traveled to England, Ireland, Wales and France as part of a 10-day, study-away trip through the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program. The annual Honors Study Away Tour, held each year since 2006, gives honors students the opportunity to discover what life is like outside of the immediate area and explore new cultures and ideas around the globe.
"My whole family loves to travel," she said. "One of my brothers has been on seven overseas trips, my other brother has been on three, and my sister spent a semester in China. I've always loved to travel, too, but I never left the country until I was 17."
That journey took her to Zimbabwe as part of a mission trip with Teen Missions International in Florida. The medical mission allowed her to provide basic wound care and foot care to rural residents of this African country while also helping them learn English, which has been designated as the nation's official language in an effort to unify the different groups that call the country home.
When she learned through her siblings of the travel opportunities available through Missouri State-West Plains, she jumped at the chance to take advantage of them. "I love anything different, but being from a family of six children, we didn't have a lot of opportunity to travel. The fact that the China program pays the travel expenses made it possible for me to go," she explained.
The program covers round-trip air fare from Springfield to Dalian, as well as an apartment for students to live in, at no cost, while there. Students are required to pay tuition, which can be covered by scholarships and financial aid programs, and pay for their own meals while in China. The apartments include cooking facilities, if students choose to cook their own meals, or they can eat at the LNU campus cafeteria.
In addition to taking classes at the University's branch campus at LNU, Bethany tutored the Chinese students in English, helping them learn to speak the language and write papers. "That's what I really liked about the program," she said. "I really loved interacting with the students, learning more about their culture and how they use our language – how they use certain words in ways we normally wouldn't. They try to find English words that are similar to words or phrases in their own language, but the words they choose and the way they use them don't always match our definitions of the word."
Not only did she teach Chinese college students English, several parents brought their children, some as young as five and six years old, to her to teach them English, as well. Bethany said she taught them using songs and other fun activities. "The teaching really helped me develop my own communication skills," she explained. "It also increased my global awareness. I was able to see how the Chinese handle some of the same problems we have, as well as observe how they approach situations that are not common here.
On the honors trip, Bethany said, visiting such renowned landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, Oxford University and the castles in Ireland made the history and ideas of these places she learned about in class a reality.
Bethany is on track to graduate from Missouri State-West Plains in December 2014, and she plans to transfer to the University of Idaho – at the encouragement of her brother and sister-in-law who live nearby – to study journalism.
She believes her travels will be of great benefit in her future career. "Being able to travel and gather information, interact with different people and adapt to new settings and situations will give me the skills I need to cover the news, interview people and offer a different perspective on the topics of the day," she explained.
Bethany said she was thrilled she had the opportunity to participate in the China Study Away and Honors Study Away Tour programs, saying these programs make Missouri State-West Plains very unique among two-year schools. "I'd recommend these programs to any student," she said.