GoAbroad Interview

Michael Nelson - U.S. Outreach Coordinator

Michael Nelson - U.S. Outreach Coordinator

Originally from Illinois, Mike has lived abroad in Belgium, Finland, and Sweden and has also traveled extensively around Asia and Europe. As the U.S. Outreach Coordinator for Asia Exchange, Mike’s duties include assisting American students who are interested in studying abroad in Asia and working with their universities.

How did you end up working for Asia Exchange?

I started getting really interested in foreign languages in high school, when I decided to take three foreign languages all at the same time. After considering a career as a foreign language teacher, my interests eventually shifted to European studies and international education. I knew I had to live in Europe, so I did an internship in Belgium and then enrolled in a master’s degree program at Stockholm University in Sweden. I really like the Nordic countries, and I was thrilled to get a chance to work at Asia Exchange in Tampere, Finland.

King Sejong Statue in Seoul, South Korea

Mike in front of the King Sejong Statue in Seoul, South Korea

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

There is great work-life balance in Finland, I think. You work hard during the day, but there are coffee breaks and time to collaborate with your team members. I’m usually juggling a few tasks, most of which involve working with students in some capacity. I advise prospective students and their universities about studying abroad in Asia, and I also organize the ambassador program for Asia Exchange alumni.

How do you use your own experiences as an international student, you are currently earning your master’s at Stockholm University, in your current role?

As an international student, I learned firsthand about all of the benefits of studying abroad. I made friends from around the world, grew as a person and professional, and learned about a new culture. Stockholm University has a lot of international students, so I met Swedes and people from all over the place. Asia Exchange offers similar programs with students coming from over ten nationalities in many cases. I inform students about these types of benefits of studying abroad that are not so obvious sometimes.

Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo, Japan

Mike visited the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo, Japan

In what ways does Asia Exchange provide out of the ordinary international experiences for U.S. students?

We are proud to be the only Finnish organization participating in the IIE Generation Study Abroad campaign, where the number of American students studying abroad is hoped to dramatically increase. Asia Exchange is a great option for American students because we offer programs in many countries that are uncommon for most colleges and universities in the U.S., like Bali. Our programs are drastically cheaper than most other study abroad providers’ alternatives. Even with our affordable prices, we still offer high-quality advising, work with highly ranked partner universities in Asia, and are known for our one week streamlined application process.

As you mentioned, Asia Exchange offers programs in unique destinations like Bali, Phuket, and Kuala Lumpur. What makes these locations great places to study abroad?

These destinations are rich in culture and professional opportunities. Experience in Asia is in high demand by employers because of the growing economies in all of these countries. Students can learn some of the most spoken languages in the world, like Mandarin Chinese and Indonesian. It seems to be more adventurous and unique to study abroad in Asia compared to the many students who go to Europe or North America for a semester. With Asia Exchange, you can choose the more paradise type options, like Bali and Phuket, or major metropolitan areas, like Bangkok and Seoul.

View of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore is a nice place to take a photo.

Why do you think Asia, in general, is an important place to have international experience in the globalizing world of today?

The influence of Asia reaches out to nearly every aspect of life, both personal and professional. Still, there is too little exchange between East and West. International experience in Asia sets you apart from the crowd and gives you marketable skills. More importantly, perhaps, is the experience of a lifetime that our students report back to us after studying abroad in Asia.

A semester in Asia can be the most influential couple of months in your entire academic experience. Go for it!

Are there any particular fields that are ideal for study in Asia? If so, how does Asia Exchange play to these fields of study?

Our programs cover almost all of the humanities, social sciences, business, and STEM disciplines. Sometimes students are really committed to earning credits towards their major while studying abroad, but a semester in Asia can be a great time to expand your horizons. No matter what you study, business competencies can always complement your existing skill set. There are also fascinating cultural courses and foreign language offerings that students should consider to learn more about the community in which they live.

Why do you love working for Asia Exchange?

I really appreciate all of the contributions of my team members here at Asia Exchange. Everyone is committed to helping students succeed and realize their dreams of studying abroad in Asia. It is an exciting place to work because we’re always hearing about how our students tried something new, like surfing, or ate a really exotic delicacy during their semester abroad. It’s inspiring.

What can U.S. students expect from Asia Exchange in 2016? Any new locations or program opportunities in the works?

Well, the year is off to a great start already. We continue to provide high-quality academic experiences at eight partner universities in five different countries in Asia. We are receiving record-breaking numbers of applications, but there are still spots left for fall 2016 and future programs. We are also investigating a few new locations and programs, but nothing has been finalized yet. Starting in 2017, we’re excited to announce that we have reduced our tuition fees to $2880 per semester in order to break down financial barriers from studying abroad. All students, regardless of their means, should be able to study abroad.