Abroad beginnings

Even before they begin their freshman year on the Michigan State University campus, some incoming students start their Spartan experience half way around the world.

MSU’s Freshman Seminars Abroad program introduces fledgling students to new people, cultures, experiences, and opportunities in other countries, including New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, and Japan. In the process, it prepares them for expanding their comfort zones on the MSU campus as well as in the classroom. The students arrive at MSU with a network of professors and friends—not to mention some great memories.

First-class support

Linda Nelson, MSU professor emeritus of human development and family studies, learned to love adventure as a child. When she discovered MSU’s Freshman Seminars Abroad, she knew she’d found a program to support—one that provides students with transformative experiences even before they arrive on campus.

Nelson is dedicated to supporting the philosophy and goals of the program by sponsoring full-cost scholarships that enable more students to participate. Last year she supported a student’s trip to Ireland because it was the home of Nelson’s ancestors. This past summer, Nelson sponsored a student for a course in Brazil because Nelson had worked in Latin America. The scholarships cover the cost of travel, tuition, books, and incidentals.

Nelson has had opportunities to travel abroad throughout her career, beginning with a trip to Cuba prior to her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania. While working on her master’s thesis at Iowa State and doctorate at MSU, she lived in rural villages in Costa Rica. After graduation, she spent 17 years working for the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Latin America.

When Nelson joined MSU as a faculty member, she says she frequently encouraged students to participate in the Peace Corps as a way to expand their education.

In addition to providing financial support for freshman seminars, Nelson participates in orientation sessions for the study abroad programs she supports as a way to meet with students and parents and to spend some time with the scholarship recipients.

“I wish there had been an opportunity of this kind when I was an undergraduate,” says Nelson. “However, I know from my graduate and work opportunities how much one can learn about oneself and others from experiences in other cultures, which is why I support the FSA opportunity for incoming students at MSU.”

Video by Jim Peck - Design by Deon Foster