Student Experiences Abroad

Jennifer Riedford, 2017

Spanish Education Major/Mathematics Minor

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain during the spring semester of 2017. Throughout my time abroad, I was able to enrich both my grasp of the Spanish language and my appreciation of Spanish culture. I fell in love with the city and the Spanish people. Living with a host family, I was immersed in the Spanish way of life - late meals, taking siestas, getting tapas, and the "tranquilo" lifestyle. We ate meals together, took walks in the park with our señora’s two-year old granddaughter, and I felt like I truly became part of the family. Although my host family did not know any English, my señora was more than willing to help me anytime I stumbled in Spanish - and she taught me some Italian as well. Attending the University of Salamanca was a fantastic learning experience. My professors were amazing and really focused on getting us to converse easily in the language – having a caña with my history professor is one of my favorite memories. I also volunteered with an English school, helping teach English to native Spaniards. While I will miss my Spanish family and friends, I am grateful that this experience has allowed me to grow as both a Spanish speaker and a person.

Jennifer Riedford

Maryam Abdi, 2014

French and Theater major, Fulbright scholar

“Nothing works, but everything works out”. This was my mantra during my nine month experience in Cameroon. While at times it felt impossible to make any progress as naive foreigner straight out of undergrad, I eventually fell in love with the chaos in a place I can still call home.

My Fulbright Student Research program allowed me to facilitate Theatre for Development (TfD) workshops in various establishments from elementary schools to capitol prisons. TfD is a therapeutic process where participants explore their inward selves through theatrical exercises and playwriting. By the end of the workshop, they present their play to the community and participate in a talkback where an open dialogue is meant to initiate lasting communication. While it was amazing to experience the growth in those I worked with, I felt I was growing with them. Their uninhibited nature inspired a special confidence within me that I will cherish for life.

While TfD workshops were where my technical research was based, I can honestly say I learned more through my daily interactions of cultural exchange. Words cannot express how badly I miss Cameroon. I miss speaking with “fire” and hilarious Cameroonian slang, daily taxi conversations with strangers, ritual costumes, using my hands as utensils, regional pride and tribal languages, the simplicity, bargaining down “white price” in the markets, talking about my home to eager listeners, bucket showers, and above all, the artistic inspiration from passionate people I viewed as family.

I think it is important for everyone to experience something so different from what they know. Not only did I fall in love with a new place, I grew to appreciate my own through a constant cultural exchange. As much as I would love to return to Cameroon one day, I know that my job now is to share my experience with others and encourage more global cultural exchange.

Maryam Abdi

Matthew Bryan, 2016

Neuroscience, Psychology, and German Major, Biology Minor

My time in Austria was one of the best that I have ever experienced. My understanding of the German language and Austrian culture became deeper the more time I spent there. The Austrian culture is truly one of excitement and was founded on a very long and intriguing history. The country has been an important area in most of world history, and with that long standing history, comes many different and beautiful forms of architecture and ideas. Ranging from the Baroque Period to the Ancient Roman Civilization, Vienna has been an influential area for thousands of years and I was honored to be able to spend my Spring semester of my Junior year there. While there, I was able to participate in an internship, the program directors were very intent on making sure everyone got to do exactly what they wanted. One of my fellow program participants got to intern at the UN. I ended up interning at a library with the Vienna public library system. This, in addition to my activities over the two week long Easter break, really helped me immerse myself in the culture and language. During the two week long Easter Break, I was able to work with a farming family, through a separate program, in Innsbruck, which is on the other side of Austria. No one the family spoke English and because of this, I really had to immerse myself. Furthermore, I became very close friends with one of their cows. This is definitely an experience I would recommend to any that would enjoy going on awesome adventures and exploring a vast and beautiful city, a city that can sometimes seem like Narnia.

Matthew Bryan

Kaylynn Carver, 2016

Spanish and International Studies major

My name is Kaylynn Carver, and I graduated from UE in 2016 with majors in Spanish and international studies. I studied abroad in Mérida, Yucatán, México through IFSA in fall 2014 and had a really fantastic experience there! I got to live with a local family, take classes at the university in town, and even travel some. I had the opportunity to study Mayan language and culture, tourism in the state of Yucatán (which included field trips!) and economics of the tourism industry, all while developing my Spanish skills and making friends with my local classmates. I also got to visit several Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the world, the beaches of Cancun and the Riviera Maya, and the mountainous state of Chiapas, where I also got to participate in Day of the Dead celebrations. This study abroad experience combined with a semester at Harlaxton and an internship in UE’s study abroad office helped me realize my passion for international education. I am using that passion now as I am studying for my Master’s degree in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute, and I hope to work in study abroad advising or directing in the future!

Also, I had trouble picking my favorite picture from Mexico, so I’m sending you three jaja, pick whichever one seems best! The first is from Chichen Itza, the second from Tulum, and the last from the “pueblo magico” of Izamal, in front of an ex-convent!

Kaylynn Carver

Adrian deSilva, 2016

German major

My name is Adrian deSilva, and I spent a semester studying abroad at the Universität Tübingen in Germany in the fall and winter of 2015-16. The experience at the university was eye-opening, to say the least. Though I was in a foreign country, I found myself in good company: nearly three thousand students at the Universität Tübingen were, like me, international exchange students, there to improve their proficiency in the German language. For many of us, German was the only language we had in common, and I found myself in a situation I have rarely experienced in the United States: communicating in a language other than English, my mother tongue. I attended courses with both international and native German students, which was certainly challenging, but positively so. My professors were always more than willing to work one-on-one with me outside of class, guiding me through research, academic writing, and exam preparation in Germany. The city of Tübingen itself possessed a welcoming atmosphere, and I came to love living in a city with a history longer than that of my home country. It was an experience I would highly recommend, and an experience I would enthusiastically repeat.

Adrian deSilva

Megan King, 2016

International Studies and French Major

My time abroad was life changing to say the least. I attended Université Catholique de Lyon in Lyon, France during the summer of 2016. I took 9 credit hours of intensive French language courses and stayed with an incredibly kind and loving French host family. Staying with my host family was definitely my favorite part of my trip because it allowed me the opportunity truly immerse myself in the French culture. We would have meals together every day, attended soccer games, and even went to watch fireworks for their national holiday; the best part of it all too was that we only spoke French. By the end of my stay, I felt as though I was really a part of their family; in fact, I still keep in touch with my French “parents” and “brother.” Also while on my adventure abroad, I traveled with my school to places like Annecy, Marseilles, and Geneva. I feel truly blessed to have made the friends that I did but also to have gained such a sense of independence after traveling by myself to a foreign country.

Megan King

Tori (Vika) Long, 2016

International Studies and Political Science dual degree, Russian and Anthropology minor

In addition to studying abroad in Harlaxton the fall semester of 2013, I also spent the fall 2015 semester in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I studied there at Saint Petersburg State University’s political science campus (housed in Smolny Convent, the convent built by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna when she intended to become a nun prior to her ascension to the Russian throne) through CIEE, which not only offers numerous study abroad programs worldwide, but is also a partner program of the school (aka with just a simple form you can pay UE tuition, use your UE scholarships, and have your courses taken through the program count towards your GPA instead of just being transfer credits). I can’t say enough about enjoyable and worthwhile this experience was for me. CIEE and UE both made sure I had multiple in-depth orientations before actually going to Russia, and once I arrived in Saint Petersburg CIEE held another 2 day orientation on cultural differences, getting along with locals and professors, what to expect from courses, safety concerns, and everything else you could ever think of to make sure we were fully prepared to thrive in our new surroundings.

While there, I stayed with a wonderful host family who lived on Vasilyevsky Island—it was a bit of a commute to campus every day, but the gorgeous view I had of the Gulf of Finland out my bedroom window and the great relationship I developed with Marina and Sergei made it more than worth it. They made sure I was always prepared for anything that could happen, helped me with my homework, and just in general became just as much family to me as my actual parents back in the States. CIEE puts a lot of effort into matching students with host families they can really click with, even up to and including making sure at least one family member has at least rudimentary English so that no matter the student’s Russian level they can communicate functionally with their hosts.

Beyond just living arrangements and the language experience I gained, one of my favorite aspects of the program was the seemingly endless cultural field trips provided by CIEE, almost at no extra fee to students—I was able to go to the Hermitage, Catherine’s Palace, the memorial graveyard to those that died during the Siege of Leningrad, Peterhof, and quite a few other significant places I probably wouldn’t have been able to visit on my own. I had a phenomenal time studying in Russia, and would recommend it to anyone who can possibly do it (even if you have no Russian language experience whatsoever—CIEE offers an intensive course for beginners as part of your course load on site in addition to the upper level language courses for those coming in with experience). Russia is a wonderful place, with plenty of nice people and places nothing like some of the negative stereotypes you may hear of in the states, and I grew and learned a lot through this experience—I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, no question (I’m even currently looking into teaching English in Russia for a year or so after graduation!).

Tori (Vika) Long

Alex Schmitt, 2016

Physics and Spanish major

During the Fall semester of 2014 I studied abroad in Cusco, Peru, through SIT Study Abroad. Along with classes there were academic excursions (aka field trips!!!) to Lima, Arequipa, Puno, Pilcopata, and many more amazing places. While abroad, I improved my Spanish skills, learned a different culture, lived with multiple host families from multiple backgrounds, gained countless experiences, and went on many unforgettable journeys. With my UE scholarships applying and outside scholarships specifically for study abroad, my semester in Peru cost the same as a semester at UE including travel and my flight.

The focus of my program was the history and current struggles of the indigenous peoples of Peru, so part of the program was visiting Native American reservations in the jungle and on Lake Titicaca. The last month was spent carrying out a self-designed research project that culminated in a 20-page paper and a 30 minute presentation, all in Spanish. While that seemed daunting at the beginning of the semester by the end I felt as comfortable with Spanish as I was with English.

At the end of my four months there I was ready to see family and friends in the US again, but it was hard to leave my Peruvian family and friends. I can easily say that studying abroad was one of my best (and most fun) decisions during my time at UE, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering it.

Alex Schmitt

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