The University of Mount Union sends about 60 students a year to study abroad in 28 different countries around the world. These students return with experiences and memories to last a lifetime.
It’s time to take a closer look at what drove these exceptional students to leave their comfort zone and become cultivated into another country. Senior Kelly Arko studied abroad on two separate occasions. “I knew it would be an amazing opportunity to break out of my shell and experience something that not a lot of people get the chance to do,” said Arko. “I loved the idea of living in a different country for an extended time; it’s more than just a vacation, so you get the chance to become a part of the environment and experience it as a resident rather than a tourist.”
Students choose to study abroad for many different reasons. Junior Alyssa Greenwell studied abroad for the opportunity to see the world and to be able to live and interact with different cultures. “I can’t even put into words how truly great it was because there are no words that will do it justice,” said Greenwell when explaining her overall experience while studying in London this past summer.
Senior Alicia Switzer chose to study abroad to take a specific course, Intercultural Communication. “What better way to learn about it than taking this course abroad,” said Switzer. Regardless of their reasons to leave, they all seem to return with the similar life changing experiences.
Senior Sydney Mihailoff had a rough start. However, after being lost in India alone, and experiencing major culture shock, Mihailoff said, “I wouldn’t change going there for anything.”
Adjusting to a different language can be challenging, according to study abroad students. Many of the students implied that this challenge made their experience fun. Senior Zak Suhar explained that his Spanish host family knew very little English, which left him with the challenge of speaking Spanish every day.
Junior Katlin Gainer, who studied in Pau, France, described her experience as eye opening. “I saw the Eiffel Tower, climbed the Pyrenees Mountains, walked down the Champs d’Elysées, bought a chocolatine from a bakery before class, and enjoyed the language of a completely different culture,” said Gainer. “How many 20 year olds can say that?”
Studying abroad takes students out of their comfort zone and forces them to adjust to a new and different culture. “Despite being uncomfortable, I had to accept the culture for being different and make the best of those differences” said Switzer. “I had to learn to laugh at frustrating things.”
Suhar described his experience abroad as life motivating. “I learned to be more independent, live completely on my own, combat a language barrier, how to budget travel, how to overcome my fears, and how to simply enjoy what had to be offered.”
Studying abroad gave Greenwell the confidence to know that she can do anything she sets her mind to. Mihailoff agreed and said, “You really get to know how strong you really can be.”
Gainer encourages other students to take advantage of this opportunity, “It is an amazing experience that you may never get the chance to do for the rest of your life, and it allows you to discover things about yourself you didn’t even know.”
All of these students agreed that they highly recommend studying abroad to any Mount Union student. The best advice they have to offer students is to conquer your fear and to keep a positive attitude and an open mind.