GV hosts Global Laker Story Slam to bring awareness to benefits of studying abroad


GVL / Bethann Long

Katherine Rauhut, Staff Writer

Studying abroad is an opportunity offered by many universities in which students can take advantage. Programs run all over the world, giving students a chance to travel outside of their home country, often for the first time.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28 Grand Valley State University hosted a Global Laker Story Slam event to promote its own programs and students connected to studying abroad.

Speakers at the event dove into their own experiences traveling abroad while detailing what such experiences taught them.

Anton Fenik, a GVSU alumnus and assistant professor in the Marketing Department of the Seidman College of Business, spoke at the event and shared his story of going to Dubai, where he went to a trade show for equine supplements and feeds.

Cities such as Dubai have different social customs from the United States. One of the men with which Fenik was signing a contract at the trade show walked around with him while holding hands, a sign of trust and friendship between men in Dubai.

“Even though I studied up on the culture as much as I could have, I guess it wasn’t enough,” Fenik said. “It was definitely a learning moment for me. I encourage you to try as much as you can because you really just learn from traveling so much.”

Facilitating the event for current students and alumni, International Programs Coordinator for the Padnos International Center, Alissa Lane, said she hoped to use the event as a way to share anecdotes about community members’ experiences when traveling abroad.

“I think another important aspect of the event is that it gives students who haven’t been abroad the chance to start thinking about what that experience might be like,” Lane said. “Rather than seeing a glossy picture in a catalog, they’re getting real stories from their peers – which are sometimes challenging and sometimes incredibly moving and inspirational.”

As with many aspects of life, traveling does not always go exactly as planned, so hearing first-hand accounts from students who may have faced obstacles during their programs can prove invaluable for those considering.

Lane sought to give GVSU travelers a forum through the story slam to tell others about their journeys.

“Having a platform to share these experiences is extremely meaningful and a great bonding experience to share these sometimes vulnerable, inspirational, challenging and funny memories of their time abroad with a group of fellow world travelers and future world travelers,” Lane said.

While international travel can be daunting, Sydney Bunk, a senior and the assistant outreach coordinator for the GVSU Padnos International Center, urged students to take part in a study abroad trip if they have the chance.

“Studying abroad is such an amazing experience that I hope all students will consider because not only do you get to be immersed in a new culture and gain new perspectives, but you also learn a lot about yourself while abroad,” Bunk said.

Bunk also expanded on advice she would give to students who may be nervous to travel internationally.

“I would tell the student that it is okay to be nervous, but just remember that you have a great support system helping you on your trip,” Bunk said. “I would recommend finding comfort in other students going abroad so that you have people you can depend on who may have the same nerves that you do.”

For those interested in taking their first step towards studying abroad, the Padnos International Center also encourages students to attend its first in-person study abroad fair in three years on Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 2250 of GVSU’s Kirkhof Center. Students will be able to peruse the various study abroad programs offered at GVSU and speak with faculty members who lead programs and ask questions regarding program selection and funding.