International Students Studying Abroad? Why not!


Parkland students studying in Ireland

One of my international scholarship students inquired about Parkland’s short-term study abroad over spring break in Costa Rica. It got me thinking about the possibility of international students doing study abroad.

“International students are already studying abroad,” you might say. Yes, while that is true, sometimes the short-term experience of studying in a third country can deeply enhance their total student experience. Here are some advantages international students may want to consider:
1. While in a third culture, the playing field is leveled; American students may no longer have the edge when it comes to being familiar with the culture, the language, the food, etc. In fact, in some cases, the international student may have the upper hand in navigating new and unfamiliar cultural territory, and can help guide the other students.

2. Studying in a short-term program is an intense experience with a small group. These kinds of experiences provide opportunities for international students to bond quickly with U.S. students on the same trip, something most international students value very highly.

3. Experiencing the culture of a third country can often provide invaluable perspective on international students’ long-term study in the U.S., exposing them to other reflections and attitudes to U.S. culture.

4. Many short-term study abroad trips help all students see a “slice of life” they might never otherwise be exposed to. Unlike tourists, education abroad participants must “roll up their sleeves” and dig more deeply into the culture of the host country, even if only for a couple of weeks.

Several years ago, one of our international students, who was also a champion wheelchair basketball player, decided to travel with a group of U.S. students to Costa Rica. He knew he would have some difficulties, as there would be substantially fewer accommodations for his disability there. He was not deterred. When the group decided to go on the trails, the international student decided to accompany them. The group had bonded so closely that whatever parts of the trail couldn’t be navigated in a wheelchair, they took turns carrying the student and helping with his wheelchair. Clearly, trust had been built very quickly, and the friendships lasted after the group returned to the U.S.

International students may have additional logistical concerns when studying abroad. All students must have a valid visa for re-entry to the U.S. once they leave. F-1 students should get their I-20s signed before leaving. International students must also investigate whether or not a special visa will be required to enter the country of study abroad destination; their visa requirements may be quite different from U.S. students travelling to the same country. If the stay outside the U.S. will be longer than five months, students may have to take a leave of absence, and then ask the International Student Services office to assist them to change their I-20 back to active status when they are planning to return.

The International Student Services office can help with all stages of this planning, and answer any questions or concerns students might have. If you decide to embark on this adventure, we want you to be able to focus on the most important thing: learning!  Visit all the study abroad programs we have to offer at


Feeling overwhelmed?


There are most likely many periods during a typical school year where students start to feel overwhelmed. You thought you had everything under control, then suddenly you get a ton of assignments all at once, or you bomb a test, or you completely forgot about a homework assignment, or you just don’t understand what’s going on in your math class, or you got sick and missed a week of class, and now you are having trouble catching up…..

Sound familiar?

Do not panic.
Do not procrastinate.

Both of these things are probably exactly how you want to react, but they will both start the slippery slope downward into an undesirable result at the end of the semester. To find out how to get through feeling overwhelmed, I decided to Google “feeling overwhelmed,” and found a blog written by Michael Hyatt, author and promoter of what he calls “intentional leadership.” This blog post, written in September 2012, is a guest post by Lucille Zimmerman. She is a licensed professional counselor and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University. She is also the author of the soon-to-be-released book, Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World.

In her guest post, Lucille explains procrastination:
“Feelings of overwhelm, perfectionism, lack of management and organizational skills can cause us to lose motivation and lead to procrastination. Procrastination is a phenomenon in which a person neglects to attend to a necessary responsibility, such as a task or decision, in a timely fashion, often despite their good intentions or inevitable negative and unpleasant.
Simply put, we avoid what’s good for us.”

She goes on to give us some tips to avoid procrastination. I’ll paraphrase, and add a few explanations.

1. Break assignments down. If you only look at the very long list of all you need to do, you will quickly feel that it is impossible to get it all done. You will instead turn to something fun, like a computer game or going out with your friends. Instead, try breaking down the big tasks into smaller parts that you can accomplish in 30 minutes. Work for 30 minutes, tick the item off your to-do list, then take a break, and then continue to the next task.

2. Change your self-talk. First of all, saying you must do such-and-such makes you feel coerced and pressured. Instead, tell yourself you “get to” or you “want to.” Eradicate the word “should” from your vocabulary. All it does is elicit feelings of failure. “I should work my paper. I should be reading my history assignment. I should … I should … I should.” Remember your long-term goals and why you are taking classes. You might find you actually want to learn about Europe’s political situation in the 19th century.

3. Give up perfection. One of the strongest links to procrastination is perfectionism. What you’re doing doesn’t have to be perfect every single time. Sometimes, it just needs to get done.

4. Stop comparing yourself with other people. You have had an entirely different set of life experiences, skills, and strengths. Looking at what your friend has accomplished will not help you in the long run.

5. Buddy up. Sometimes, just getting together with a friend turns a task into a treat. Make an appointment to study together, get caught up, and be happy with the time spent together.

6. Reward yourself. Psychologists know that reward is a much stronger motivator than punishment. Sometimes it could be a cup of coffee or buying a favorite magazine. When you accomplish a bigger goal, give yourself a nicer reward.

Above all, remember that you can do it! If you need help, don’t forget or be afraid to use the Parkland College resources available: peer tutoring, Counseling and Advising (making appointments for personal, free counseling, not just academic advising), and your International Student Advisor in International Student Services.




If you came to Champaign-Urbana by plane, bus, or train, you probably noticed that there are a lot of corn fields in east central Illinois.  Once a year Champaign-Urbana celebrates its agricultural roots with the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.  If you’re looking for something to do this weekend to acquaint yourself with Midwest U.S. culture, visit the many food stands, listen to the music, and enjoy the entertainment for young and old.  And eat some sweet corn!



For more information about the festival:  http://

For a photo of a happy festival-goer:

Enjoy!  And don’t forget to wipe your chin….

Heat Wave


A farmer near Sigel (southeast Shelby County) cuts down the corn crop for silage on July 1. Photo courtesy of the Illinois State Climatologist Office.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s hot here in east central Illinois.  Really, really hot.  Unbearably hot.  And dry.  Bone dry.

It’s not always like this here in summers, I swear.  Why, I remember a summer back in ’97 when it was just lovely.  Or was it ’98…?  And then there was the summer of ’93 when we had too much water.  WAYYYYY too much water.  That’s probably why they call it “The Great Flood of ’93.”  I remember visiting St. Louis, and the Mississippi River came almost up to the steps of the Arch.  Entire neighborhoods were destroyed.  Downstream, entire towns were destroyed.  According to a paper written for the NOAA by Lee W. Larsen,  “The 1993 midwest flood was one of the most significant and damaging natural disasters ever to hit the United States. Damages totaled $15 billion, 50 people died, hundreds of levees failed, and thousands of people were evacuated, some for months.”  Consider this photo, taken in Festus, Missouri, 1.5 miles away from and 30 feet above the Mississippi River:








This year we’re experiencing record drought, the exact opposite, but equally a disaster for many.  Many farmers are plowing their crop under instead of harvesting it; the corn and soybeans—normally resplendent this time of year—have not produced anything.  Farmers’ markets are going to suffer, and eventually we will see the difference in prices in the supermarket and even at the gas station (a lot of our corn goes to make ethanol, a gasoline additive).

So…why do we live here, you ask?  Extreme summers, floods and drought, bitterly cold winters, flat prairie….and list goes on?  My answer every year is the same:  the people.  Midwesterners are non-pretentious, friendly, dependable, down-to-earth, sensible people.  How do I get to know them, you ask?  Well, start up a conversation, I’d answer. 

And if you’re looking for a topic, you can always talk about the weather.


Getting Down and Dirty


This year is a first for Parkland College in many ways; one first is our Sustainable Farm. Recently, some farm land was donated to Parkland College with the stipulation that it be used to teach sustainable farming practices. “Sustainable” does not equal “organic,” but rest assured that Parkland will not be using chemical pesticides and herbicides on their vegetables. Sustainable practices are those that leave the least harmful effect on the environment; the farm harvests rainwater for irrigation, uses mulch and good, old-fashioned manual labor instead of chemicals to remove weeds. Plants are arranged together for their mutual maximum benefit.
Many of our international students at Parkland come from urban areas. If you come from a big city, and if the only exposure you’ve had to agriculture and farming in central Illinois is seeing the ocean of fields from your car on interstate 57, perhaps it’s time for you to come and get your hands dirty. Hey, you can get a great suntan at the same time, and maybe taste some really fresh vegetables! Professors Don Bergfield and Thais Riley are always looking for volunteers to help out. If you’d like to help, please contact either of them at or It’s the chance of a lifetime to learn about your food source close up, so don’t pass up this opportunity!!

Breaking New Ground


On Monday afternoon I wandered to the Circle Drive in “front” of Parkland for the New Student Services Building Groundbreaking Ceremony. It was windy and cool, but the sun was breaking out from behind the clouds. An awning had been temporarily installed, and tables laden with Food for Thought’s delicious offerings lined the walkway. People were happy, laughing. Students from several different areas of student life were gathered behind the podium, including some international students. Several representatives from government and the community were present. I have never seen so many people in suits at Parkland. As I listened to speeches—from President Ramage, Vice-President Moore, state representatives and senators, and the president of student government—I saw a photographer on the rooftop, “sniping” photos of this amazing crowd.

Why all the hoopla? Well, you’ll notice I used quotation marks on the word “front”, as in “the ‘front’ of Parkland.” That’s because there’s no official main entrance of our college. The new student services building—an idea that’s been in the works for almost 20 years—will provide a focus and a main entrance….and so much more. The architects of institutions of higher learning in the 1970s were making designs which discouraged large public meetings; they were anxious that public meeting would lead to public outrage, hostility, protests, demonstrations, and riots. This was, after all, the years of the riots related to racial tension, war protest, etc. Thus, Parkland College’s current design doesn’t allow for a large public meeting place for students, often called a Student Union. We’re no longer in the 70s, and we’ve now hopefully realized that public meeting places are essential for educational exchange of ideas, and the social element which encourages students to not just “go to college”, but to “live college.” The new building will be open and airy, filled with natural light, and be built with future sustainability in mind; it will house all the services and student-centered activities essential to an excellent student experience: Student Life, the cafeteria, Admissions and Records, Financial Aid, and so on.
It’s no wonder Monday’s event was so exciting for students and staff alike! This groundbreaking marks not only the beginning of construction of a beautiful building, but also the beginning of a profound change in Parkland’s evolution, making our way towards empowering and serving all students even more as they pursue their educational plans and dreams.

What Should I Do This Weekend?


Have you ever noticed how everything seems to happen on the same weekend?  For a while, Champaign-Urbana seems to be not that exciting, the weather is grey, there are no fun holidays….then, ta-dah!  Everything is suddenly exciting again!

You may have heard of Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.  Many have heard of it, but don’t know what it is.  Don’t be fooled, “Unofficial” is simply a drinking holiday, having nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, which is on March 17 every year.  “Unofficial” was started by bars offering drink specials on a designated weekend when students would be in town, as March 17 often fell on spring break.  Young students often make fools of themselves by getting rip-roaring drunk and causing disruption wherever they go, simultaneously attracting the attention of the police and the scorn of the community.  Unofficial is this weekend, so be careful.

If you don’t want to be under the influence of consumerism and poor taste, the good news is there are TONS of other things going on this weekend that I would personally find INFINITELY more interesting than drinking myself into a stupor, and they’re actually less expensive than buying drinks.  Here’s a short list:

The Greek Film Festival—the first in Champaign-Urbana! More info at:


Worldfest 2012 at Spurlock Museum (scroll down on the calendar)


The Affordable Art Show (two of my friends are involved!) if you love art at reasonable prices


And, here’s a more complete list, found on Champaign-Urbana’s online magazine, Smile Politely:


Have fun, and be safe!!!