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Three weeks in Japan leads to lifelong change through CLC’s study abroad program

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Mar 17, 2021

It’s a homecoming of sorts for the newest hire in College of Lake County’s (CLC) Center for International Education (CIE), an office devoted to global awareness and intercultural understanding and engagement among everyone at the college. As a senior administrative assistant Violeta Ramirez is one of the first people students, both domestic and international, interact with when they visit the CIE. She often sees herself in them, mostly because she used to be where they are now. 

Photo of Violeta Ramirez in Japan“I went to CLC because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with education. I just knew I wanted to keep going,” said Ramirez (right) who graduated from CLC in 2015. “I never saw myself as being able to go abroad because of the stereotypes that come with being low-income and a first-generation college student. When I speak with students who are in the same place I was I try to encourage them to go abroad.” 

The 2013 Mundelein High School graduate started at CLC that same year and immediately began exploring all the college had to offer; including its international students. 

“The reason I got super involved with international club was because I had the belief, as low-income, I could never leave this country,” said Ramirez. “Knowing there were international students at CLC, I wanted to take advantage of that, get to know them and gain a global perspective. Getting to meet them and hearing their stories I realized they’re just like me. They’re trying to figure things out.”  

Ramirez Japan 1Those cross-cultural relationships inspired Ramirez to look into CLC’s study abroad program. The college offers short-term programs to countries like France, Poland, and the United Arab Emirates, with semester-long programs in China, Austria, England and Costa Rica. In summer 2014, despite the limitations she felt were placed on her, she made the journey to Japan to study culture and linguistics. The trip was only three weeks long, but it left a lifelong impression on Ramirez.

Photo: Ramirez and her study abroad group in Japan, summer 2014

“When I meditate on it, I think if I hadn’t gone to Japan how different would my life be now,” said Ramirez. “All jobs and careers have an international tie, but most people see it through a narrow lens. Nothing is narrow; everything is intercultural and international.” 

It’s an experience Lindsey Hobson, who works with international students at CLC, believes every student should have. “Once students study abroad, their eyes open up to so many different things and they start to see and understand their classmates who are from other countries. It really is a global community and that’s something we’re trying to build through our office.” 

Ramirez KoreaRamirez went on to study at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and she spent an entire academic year in South Korea. She graduated in August 2020 with a bachelor’s in global studies. Shortly after, the job opened at CLC and Hobson says she was a shoe-in.

Photo: Ramirez in South Korea during her academic year studying abroad while at UW-Milwaukee

“There’s her skills and abilities, but there’s also this really deep heart and passion for serving students and for international education,” said Hobson. “She loves what she does and that’s important because she’s going to love our students.” 

Speaking of students, the CLC community has a chance to learn more about all the CIE has to offer during global citizenship week, March 29 to April 2. Daily events will be held live via Zoom and include information on various study abroad opportunities, cultural presentations from CLC international students and the global citizenship milestone. Session specifics will be posted on CLC’s news and events page

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation. Learn more at or call (847) 543-2000.