Penn State

After host of international experiences, Penn State graduate heads for Japan

A local Penn State student who turned her tassel Saturday will pursue a career abroad after international experiences she had as an undergraduate at the university.

Laura Mincemoyer Egan, of Boalsburg, an education major, participated in educational programs in other countries each year during her undergraduate study at Penn State. She said she will pursue teaching English in Japan, the location of her first educational experience abroad.

“I know that I have to go back to Japan and try living there,” said Egan, who has applied and hopes to be in Japan when the school year there starts in April.

Egan, a 2009 State College Area High School graduate, also was the student marshal for the College of Education’s fall commencement ceremony. She graduated with bachelor’s degrees in education and Spanish, minors in Japanese, and international studies and four international experiences.

“The international experiences were definitely highlights,” she said. “It was nice to be able to do so many of them with (the College of) Education.”

Egan’s first international experience in college was a youth exchange through 4-H in which she went to Japan.

She took an interest in Japan and Japanese culture toward the end of her time at State High, and during the summer between her freshman and sophomore years at Penn State, she went to Japan and lived with a host family in the Yamaguchi prefecture.

Her freshman year is when she said she first knew she had an interest in teaching English. She’d heard of an opportunity through a Penn State program to teach English as a second language in Otavalo, Ecuador.

During her sophomore year, she was able to take advantage of that opportunity, which had her taking classes and then teaching English to students in the community after school.

Egan said the Ecuador program was a beneficial experience because she was able to collaborate with teachers.

Egan found herself on the other side of the Atlantic during her junior year, as she spent a semester in Alicante, Spain, through a Penn State-approved program.

A semester abroad is required of students in the College of Education’s world languages program, and she said she received credit for all her courses.

Egan said she made a point to maximize her experience by immersing herself in Spanish and distancing herself from Americans so she’d be less likely to fall back on English.

It worked — there was one point where she said she forgot the word for “bulletin board” in English.

“I really tried to hard to speak in Spanish all the time,” she said. “I was definitely thinking in Spanish a lot.”

Last year, during Egan’s senior year, she studied in Bourne, England, and she was able to meet up with three friends she met in Alicante who were also studying in the city.

“It was a totally different school experience,” Egan said, pointing to one example of how students had a tea break in the morning and a lunch break in the afternoon. “You think it might be similar, but it was, and it was also entirely different.”

Egan said the international experiences have taught her lessons about herself.

When she came back from her first one, in Japan, she felt a lot more independent because she had been away from her parents for so long. She developed friendships with people in the Japanese department at Penn State.

She said learning Japanese wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be, and she said her first year of taking Japanese at Penn State prepared her well.

“It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I didn’t seem like work.”

Egan’s mother, Beth Mincemoyer Egan, said she was proud of her daughter and recognized State College Area schools for preparing her for college.