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International Education

O'Dowd Hall, Room 328
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-2889

Office hours
Mon - Fri: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Alex Zimmerman, Director
(248) 370-2843

International Education

O'Dowd Hall, Room 328
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-2889

Office hours
Mon - Fri: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Alex Zimmerman, Director
(248) 370-2843

 A pile of postcards and books on a table.

Study Abroad Stories

Study Abroad volunteer student advisers share their study abroad adventures with you, tips on choosing a program, and their life changing experiences. Broaden your horizons, and expand your knowledge of the world, and cultivate a passion for learning overseas. Read on to see how.

Julia Weilant

Study Abroad Student Advisor

Julia is an undergrad at Oakland University, working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. Ever since she was a child, Julia has appreciated British literature and media, from King Arthur to Hamlet (along with an extra special obsession with “Doctor Who” since she first discovered it at the age of ten), and she seeing the places that she's always imagined in her favorite works. Julia studied abroad in London, England during August 2022, and uses her experiences abroad to further inspire her works in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

View Julia's study abroad video highlights and photos on our Facebook page.

Anna Luongo

Major: Psychology
When: Summer 2018
Where: Trieste, Italy

Anna is an undergraduate student at Oakland University majoring in psychology with a minor in Italian Language. She comes from a family of Italian immigrants and grew up surrounded by Italian language and culture. Anna studied abroad in Trieste, Italy. Here she made many close friends and furthered her passion for the Italian language. Anna loves to travel and learn about new cultures. Besides Italy, her favorite travel spots include California and Montreal, Canada. She is excited to visit more countries and have more experiences abroad. After graduating from Oakland she hopes to live in Italy for a few years and travel throughout Europe.

View Anna’s photos on our Facebook page and study abroad video on our YouTube channel.

Mackenzie Baranski

Major: Psychology
When: Summer 2019
Where: London, England

Mackenzie is an undergraduate student at Oakland University majoring in psychology. She studied British Literature abroad in London, England. Through study abroad, Mackenzie made many great friendships and memories that will last her a lifetime. Mackenzie loves to travel and has also been able to extend her travels to Spain, Italy, France, Andorra, Germany, Scotland, Canada and The Netherlands. Her favorite places include Barcelona, Spain; Carcassonne, France; Heidelberg, Germany; and Edinburgh, Scotland. She hopes to continue on to earn her Master's Degree in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. Her goal is to become a BCBA to work with children with autism.

View Mackenzie's photos on our Facebook page and study abroad video on our YouTube channel.

Malaena Caldwell

Study Abroad Student Adviser

Malaena is an undergraduate student at Oakland University majoring in French and Creative writing. Although she has been studying French since grade 8, her passion for language learning did not fully realize until she put her knowledge to the test by studying abroad in Orléans, France for a semester. Before then, she had never internationally traveled- not even to Canada! Because of her study abroad, Malaena changed her minor in French to a double major. There she fully immersed herself in the culture and made many close friends that she hopes to go back see after graduating. Malaena loves to travel and experience new cultures. While in Europe, she visited Madrid, Spain and aspires to travel around the world- especially Japan, Germany, and England- before continuing on to doctoral studies. In the end, Malaena hopes to move to and attend school in Montreal, Canada- the perfect blend of English and French cultures.

Experience: Studying abroad was the best experience of my college career. Even though my program was cut short due to COVID, I wouldn’t change it for the world. In my short time there, I met so many people, made so many friends, and had many adventures that I wouldn’t trade for the world. However, I still wish I would have done more. Every single time I said “no” to something, like going to the Louvre or visiting another city in France, I justified it by reminding myself I would have more time to do more things once classes and exams finished. Unfortunately, because of COVID, that time never came, and I regret my apprehension. Your time abroad is so short. Your time in college is so short. Do everything you can because this is the best time to do it. Don’t let your biggest restraint be yourself. Say yes to everything you can as much as you can because you no idea when you’ll get the chance to have an experience like this again. It’s such a privilege to be abroad and experience new cultures, so be appreciative of your time by trying as much as you can.

Advice: My more rational advice would be to apply for scholarships. Scholarships are a great resource that sadly many students don’t take advantage of. But there are so many scholarships laying around ready to be given out, all you have to do is have to take the time to apply. This may seem a lot, but as someone was able to get their study abroad completely paid off because of scholarships, I promise it’s worth it. There is nothing more rewarding than studying abroad.

View Malaena’s study abroad videostudy abroad photos on our Facebook page, and study abroad news story.

Conor Urban

Study Abroad Student Adviser

Conor is an undergraduate student majoring in French Language and Literature, History, and International Relations. Conor studied the French language in Orléans, France in the fall semester of 2019. During this time, he made many friends from around the world including his wonderful host family. Conor loves traveling and plans to travel internationally again soon. He loved his experiences in the smaller cities of France. Conor has traveled to Canada, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. After graduation, Conor plans to teach English in Europe, followed by a career in International Aid through Non-Governmental Organizations or the U.S. State Department.

Advice: My advice is to accept the situations you are in. Some will be very exciting and some will be stressful, but that is how life is. Everything you do is a learning experience even when not in the classroom. I would also say to take time for yourself. While it is exciting to travel all the time. It can be exhausting, and it is also important to look around the area you are in and enjoy being there.  Every city has something different and special to offer. Also, try to leave your notions about the country and a study abroad experience at home. Everyone has a different experience and gets something different out of it. While some people may get certain things out of study abroad, not everyone will have a similar experience, so try to enjoy all of the special things about your experience.

View Conor's study abroad video and his study abroad photos on our Facebook page.

Maggie Schneider

Experience Maggie Schneider's exciting study abroad program, CIEE Summer Language and Culture in Buenos Aires, Argentina, through her three-minute production.


As cliche as it sounds, my trip to Buenos Aires was the most challenging yet rewarding whirlwinds of a month I have yet faced in my life. Everything from the combination of culture shock, classes and overwhelming city life presented in itself a rewarding kind of obstacle.

To start, I didn’t originally think culture shock would effect me much, being an Anthropology major I thought I would have a better cultural understanding than most. Well I’m sure it helped, I was still quite literally shock by how different another nook of the world could be. It made me realize how important experience truly is. My anthropology books just couldn’t cut it. Everything from the smaller coffee cup sizes, the required ten o’clock family dinners and blatantly honest conversation topic of Argentina forced me out of my comfort zone. In retrospect it was amazing but I was surprised how much the little adaptations altered my daily American routine.

A whole other dimension of adaptations that I faced on my trip was the culture life of the city itself. Growing up in the small rural town of Davidson, I had never even been in a taxi before. Trying to navigate the subways and the one hundred plus bus routes within Buenos Aires was beyond overwhelming. The first time I made it home by myself to my university using public transportation was one of my proudest moments. The daily challenges of the city taught me to relax and go with the flow. Though once I got the hang of transportation I could take advantage of the endless byous of the city. Every spare minute I wasn’t spending studying or with my host family I was exploring some of Argentina’s beautiful, historical and nationally important sites, including Patagonia.

Of course I have to mention the whole reason I was in Buenos Aires, to study. I decided to take the international relations class offered at the host university, even though it was taught only in Spanish by local professors and I was a semester behind in the required Spanish class experience. I wanted a challenge and I wanted to better my Spanish and I definitely got both. I’ve never had to put so much effort into a class, both in assignments and in class participation. On top of it all, the laid back Argentine attitude carries over to school as well. The absence of rubrics and class starting twenty minutes late was another cultural adjustment and my stingy personality had to accommodate. I ended up receiving my first A minus ever in my high school and college career, yet it is the grade I am the most proud of.

Looking back at my time in Buenos Aires it was just a tiny blip in my life as far as time is concerned. However the significance of this particular time clip is insurmountable. I learned so much from the culture, the city and the class I took itself. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

Ellen Barker

Experience Ellen Barker's exciting study away program, the National Student Exchange at the University of Alaska Southeast, in Juneau, Alaska, through her three-minute production.

Jennifer Jacob

Experience Jennifer's exciting study-abroad exchange at Nanzan University through her three-minute production.


Before you study abroad, you don't know what to expect. You pack your entire life into two little suitcases, and take that first leap of faith onto the airplane and hope for the best. You can imagine what it will be like and listen to other's experiences, but you will never truly understand the life changing process that it is, so you take that first step and experience it for yourself. I've been wanting to study abroad in Japan, since I was 12 years old, and it took me eight years to realize that dream, but that doesn't mean I wasn't nervous. Would I fit in? Would I understand? How hard would the classes be? Would I get lost? What about my roommates? What about…? But, studying abroad in Japan, I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences of my life. Everyday is a new adventure, and you never know exactly what to expect. From singing your heart out in karaoke one day, to parading in the streets and festivals the next. Exploring shrines and festivals. Experiencing two typhoons and a small earthquake Even food you never thought you would try before and doing things you didn't even know you could do. I also gained a cultural understanding of my own country and the cultures of those that I studied with. I made friends with Brazilian, Dutch, Swedish, Australian, Chinese, Mexican, Taiwanese, English, Russian, and of course American and Japanese students over the course of my stay. All of us were sharing the common bond of studying a language and culture, and willing to share our own culture with each other as well. It truly was an international experience. There will be mishaps, of course, or some troubles in your journey, but that's what makes everything memorable experience. And of course, you have to study too. One of my favorite memories of Japan was traveling with some friends to a local festival, as we arrived at the main event, we were showered with small bits of paper being thrown from a portable shrine. It was being paraded throughout the city by the people as they played various traditional instruments and made puppets all around it dance. The whole event was so beautiful and it turned all of us so giddy and free that with wide smiles we began to heap up mounds of paper now scattered the ground like leaves, and we began to throw them at each other with the local Japanese children running and laughing throughout the streets. I learned so much in just the short time I lived in Japan and have changed so much as a person in the way, I think and perceive things in my daily life, not only in my language skills improved tenfold, but I think all aspects of my life have been bettered by the experience and knowledge I've learned here. I would highly recommend anyone who is considering taking that first step into exploring another country, language, or culture by studying abroad to go forth with both arms open, and an open mind and get ready to be changed yourself. It may take time and effort to make it a reality as it did for me, but with the help of your teachers, family, and friends you can make it possible and experience a way of life that you'll never forget.

Madison Bull

Major: Environmental Sustainability and Resource Management
When: Winter 2021
Where: Cork, Ireland

About me: Hello! My name is Madison Bull and I was Junior when I studied abroad in Ireland. I am studying Environmental Science and I really enjoy nature. My favorite activities include going for nature walks and spending time outside, so that is why I picked Ireland! The decision to study abroad came pretty easy to me. I kept seeing pictures from many different places and it gave me the urge to travel, so when I encountered the international office it was like a sign to study abroad. Because my major is a newer field of study and it’s not very popular, I was limited by the amount of programs that offered what I study. I finally decided on Ireland because it is dubbed The Emerald Isle for its beautiful nature and scenery, so it is perfect for someone like me. My life at home was uneventful and I was very introverted and liked my comfort zone. I made the decision that I didn’t want to live my life in the comfort zone and studying in a new country I’ve never been to before pushed me to do things I never thought I would do. The experience has extraordinarily changed me for the better.

Experience: My experience started and ended in the midst of COVID-19. When I arrived I was restricted to my apartment for two weeks, besides outdoor exercise, before I could go out. During this period my roommates were also quarantined, so not being able to see any other people made for some great bonding between the four of us. After the initial quarantine classes started and we were now restricted to the city of Cork. Classes were online, but that gave me more opportunities to explore the city, rather than be stuck in a classroom. The university I attended was University College Cork or UCC. The campus was beautiful and historic. It was also one of the greenest campuses in the world and ranked number 8 by Times Higher Education Impact for sustainability. I feel that with the restrictions I had to get creative in the ways I explored my city and the relationships I made, which made the overall experience much more meaningful and unique to me than a regular semester. Since the number of people I interacted with was limited, I met my best friend and the love of my life because we spent the majority of our time together, really getting to know each other. We got lucky and the restrictions were lifted at the very end of the semester, so that meant cramming six months of travel into six weeks. I was able to see the Irish countryside as well as the famous Blarney Castle and even Dublin. My experience was definitely very unique and that’s the beauty of studying abroad, nobody will have the same experience.

Advice: My advice to anyone considering studying abroad is to just take the leap and go! It will be an unforgettable, life changing experience and anyone can go. For the students that are already going, my number one advice is take advantage of every situation. Life doesn’t always go to plan so you will have to make the best of what you have and just studying in a different country is amazing no matter what happens while you’re there. Another piece of advice would be to stay organized! There is lots of paperwork, applications, and forms that need to be filled out from before you leave to after you get back and it is much easier to navigate the process if you keep organized. It is also a very good idea to research your host country so you have an idea of what to expect when you get there and it will get both you and your families excited about your trip. While you are there you will definitely make friends, so try to meet a variety of people especially from many different countries and cultures. It’s amazing to learn about different cultures from good friends and be able to share your culture with them! I wish I had gotten closer to more people.

Santeiu Butler

About Me: Hello! My name is Santeiu (pronounced san-TOO) Butler and I am a Junior at Oakland University. I will become a senior at the end of the Fall 2018 semester, so I am taking my Senior Thesis classes this year. I studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea at Yonsei University for the Academic Year of Fall 2017 – Winter 2018. I had a great time in Korea where I was able to travel and give back to my host country as well. I had the opportunity to volunteer and take care of Korean babies under 6 months old, teach English to the elderly as well as North Korean defectors, and even walk dogs through the park. I noticed, upon my return, that my life was quite uneventful and ordinary before my study abroad experience. Now I plan on returning to South Korea to teach English to children and young teens for a much longer period than an academic year.

Why South Korea:  I have always had a fascination with the underappreciated and underrated. All throughout high school, I was taught mainly about American, Southern American, and European history. The farthest East my classes covered was briefly learning about Chinese history. I was curious as to what else was out there, so I taught myself about the rest of Eastern Asia. South Korea stood out to me as a rather underappreciated country with such a rich and complex history that I had to learn more. Before I knew it, I was teaching myself to read and write Korean and how to speak it conversationally. Soon after that, I was planning my study abroad trip to South Korea.

My experience: Being in such a vastly different country for so long meant that I got the true study abroad experience. I did excursions, volunteer work, I traveled all throughout the country, visited temples and so much more. I also had the opportunity to stay with a host family to increase my language and cultural immersion. I picked up on the language much faster than I thought I would. Before I knew it, days would pass before I realize I hadn’t spoken a single word of English! Studying abroad truly changed my life. My future plans have completely changed based on the great experience I had in South Korea.

Why Study Abroad: Studying abroad is definitely worth it. Filling out applications, asking for recommendations, and budgeting is worth it. You have the chance to travel while staying on track to your degree. Not many people can say that they traveled to five countries before they were 24 years old. Not only that but studying abroad will make you much more marketable to future employers and it looks great on a resume! There are so many more reasons to study abroad but the main question is this: Why not study abroad?

My tips: You can study abroad! Persistence makes perfect. I know it is tedious applying to study abroad but it is worth it. Apply, apply, apply for scholarships. I received multiple scholarships that paid for a large portion of my year-long trip. Stop by the office or look online to learn about OU and government-offered scholarships, grants, and sponsorships. Finally, once you have decided where you want to travel, look up the area you will be living or even the way from the airport to your place of residence on Google Maps. It can get overwhelming once you get off the airplane and, after all that traveling, you may be a little confused or tired. Looking up the route and familiarizing yourself with your surroundings before you go can help your arrival go as smoothly as possible. And you get a sneak peek at your future environment.

Gabriela Mayoral

About Me: Hello! My Name is Gabriela Mayoral and I am a senior double majoring in Criminal Justice and French Language & Literature. I believe that the best way to truly learn a language is to live in the country where they speak it — so, I decided to study abroad in Angers, France, for the Spring 2018 semester. I wanted the full, French immersion — and what better way to do this than by living with a French host family! I was able to practice my French every day, partake in cultural traditions, and of course, this included eating traditional French foods! I established such a great relationship with my host family that they encouraged me to become an English teaching assistant in France so that I could come back and get the chance to see them. After graduating in Spring 2019, I plan to return to France by doing the TAPIF Program.

My Experience: I participated in the Angers French Immersion Program offered by GEO. I chose this program because I was able to take courses with international students while still experiencing the French way of living through my host parents. I took courses in French Art History, French History, Translation, and Theatre. These were all courses that I needed to take for my French major, so I was glad I was able to get credit for these abroad! My favorite part about having class with international students was being able to communicate with Japanese, Chinese, or Korean students through our shared French language skills. It is so easy to travel within Europe. During my time there, I traveled to London, Venice, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, and Amsterdam! Traveling is affordable if you know how to do it. 

Advice: I already knew how to speak French before I arrived, so it wasn’t much of a problem for me to interact with locals; however, if you don’t know the language, write down some basic phrases that might come in handy! One thing that I wish I did more was explored my city. I spent so much time traveling to other countries and cities that I found myself trying to discover Angers during my last week in France. If you have the opportunity to choose, definitely stay with a host family! I know it might sound scary, but these families have experience! If you choose my program, they will try to match you with the family that best fits your preferences!

Katerina Mihailidis

Study abroad: Angers, France
Major: French Language and Literature and Journalism
When: Summer 2017

About me: I was born in the U.S., but I grew up in Greece, experiencing the best of both worlds growing up as a bilingual and bicultural individual. I began studying French in sixth grade while I was in Greece, and that’s probably when my passion for the French language and culture was born. I loved French as much as I loved switching between all three languages and finding the common etymological similarities. I moved to the U.S. at the age of 18 to start my undergraduate studies at Oakland University. My love of French carried over to college and French became one of my majors. In addition to French, I am also majoring in journalism with a dream to travel and write. My journalistic travels started with my visit to Angers, France for Study Abroad.

Why I studied abroad: With a dream to travel and write about people and cultures, I chose to study abroad in France, where I would be able to most comfortably communicate and document my experiences. I wanted to capture the essence of a culture different than the ones I was familiar with. I wanted to get to know the people, the locals and make foundational connections and friends.

During my time in France, I maintained a blog and I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Through my program I got the chance to talk to the locals and share stories and experiences with families (my hosts and others) in French. Despite the hectic class scheduling and the short amount of time that I was there, my time in the picturesque and beautiful city of Angers was simply lovely.

My Experience: Classes were long, homework was pleasantly challenging, but there was plenty of time in that one month of July to explore the city and see France. The excursions and the food were by far the best part of my experience. I was in homestay and all my meals were home-made, French and delicious. The cheese and bread were heavenly. The roommate I was assigned to became a very close friend and I got to see places that I had only ever heard about in my studies. Physically going to sights that were rich in history and beauty was incredible.

Why you should study abroad: You will be able to escape your comfort zone, explore the world and become more aware of other cultures. A study abroad experience, no matter how long the stay, is eye-opening and fruitful in all aspects. You will make friends and discover delicious or perhaps strange foods and desserts, but an experience such as this will make you spiritually, culturally and socially a richer person.

Despite common misconception, the trip is affordable. There are so many scholarships to apply for that can help pay for you experience. We advisers can help you out with almost anything! Just come see us in our walk-in hours or make an appointment! I assure you, we will all be happy to see you. Let us share our story with you so you can begin writing your own!   

View Katerina’s photos on our Facebook page.

Amy Dewald

Study abroad: Seoul, South Korea
Major: Accounting
When: Fall 2016

My Experience: I knew for years that I wanted to study abroad in South Korea. The fast-paced innovative business and technology environment of the country alongside the rich and rooted culture fascinated me. I had to go and experience it for myself. While in Korea I was able to travel to many places very easily. My favorite excursions included hiking up mountains, making traditional Korean pottery, playing on the beach with other study abroad students, and exploring the various cultural destinations Korea has to offer. I loved studying at Yonsei University because I was able to take classes with students from all over the world and learn Korean in an intensive yet fun class (I can now have conversations in Korean and I didn’t really know any Korean when I arrived in August). Through study abroad I was able to teach English at a senior citizens center, mentor children in a poorer neighborhood in Seoul, try amazing food, see incredible music and dance performances, and ultimately have an experience that would change me and allow me to make friends that will last a lifetime.

You can do it! No need to stress: I remember the process before I left, and it was kind of intimidating because you wonder if you can get everything together right so that it all runs smoothly. I think that this can sometimes scare students from tackling the preparation and opting to not study abroad. What I learned is that the International Education office at OU has sent students abroad time and time again and they are always enthusiastic to answer questions and help you out along the way. You don’t have to plan your experience alone and once you get it all done and head off to your study abroad destination, it’s all 1,000 times worth it. It will be an experience you will carry with you forever.

Being Abroad: Speaking as a student who went to a country that doesn’t speak English as a first language, I can tell you that I was able to learn so much while I was there. My advice would be to try to look for opportunities to spend time with locals in your host country. I got to volunteer with children and elderly people during my stay in Korea and those were the most rewarding times. By spending time with Korean people, I got to learn more of the culture and the language than I would have if I stayed in my shy comfort zone. Also, I would advise potential study abroad students to make new friends with locals as well as other study abroad students. I had the opportunity to make friends with students from all over the world including Sweden and China. You’ll be exposed to so many different people and it will open your heart in ways you never realized.

View Amy's photos on our Facebook page.

Brianna Tombaugh

Study Abroad: Norwich, England

Major: Human Resources Management
Minor: International Management
When: 2016-17 academic year

Why go abroad? Making the decision to study in a different country may not be easy for everyone. I made this decision because it was something that I had always dreamed about. I am a person who believes that experiences shape the way people think and perceive the world. New experiences and challenges allow individuals to grow and have a better understanding of how the world works. Moving somewhere foreign can be a daunting thought, but if the opportunity is there, take advantage of it! This experience was one of the best decisions I have made as a young adult and I hope that more OU students are able to do the same!

Experience: Becoming an exchange student for an entire year in another country meant that I got the complete student experience. I was assigned a flat (dorm/apartment) with seven other students going to UEA- six British students, one EU National and myself. While I was at UEA I was able to meet other students from all over the world including, Pakistan, Bulgaria, China, France, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and the Czech Republic just to name a few. Meeting these people really taught me about cultural differences and viewpoints that others may have about the world, which definitely expanded my horizons.

Why UEA? I chose to go to UEA and become an exchange student because of where I was in my academic journey. As a sophomore at Oakland I decided that if I wanted to study abroad it would have to be during my junior year. After looking at all of the different options offered for studying abroad I had to make a decision; I needed to find the program that would be conducive to my academic plan. After doing research and talking to my advisor, I concluded that becoming an exchange student would be the most beneficial option for me. UEA offers a wide range of courses (or modules as they call them in England) that I was able to get approved by the School of Business Faculty and earn both credit and a transferable grade for. Beyond that, UEA had several opportunities for students to meet with business professionals working in England. An example of this would be Employability Week. During Employability Week all students had to attend seminars with professionals in our intended fields instead of going to class. This gave me the chance to learn different practices and thought processes which allowed me to gain a more globalized perspective in terms of business.

Highlights: Upon my arrival to the University of East Anglia I was warmly greeted by orientation leaders. These individuals showed me where I was staying and helped me take my luggage to my room. Hours after making my way to my room I talked to other international students in the flat next to mine, who quickly became some of my best friends. Together we attended all of the welcome activities and started making our way through the city of Norwich. With some of these friends I explored England, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Italy, Malta, Greece and France.

Advice: Going to school at an English University (or Uni, as English students would call it) is very different in comparison to attending an American University. Everyone always says that at the University level “teachers won’t hold your hands”, well in England it was a whole new extreme. Tests and quizzes were limited and there was no assigned homework. This meant that all of my studying and practicing was to be done on my own. All of my classes were one year in duration, meaning that from September to June I was enrolled in the same eight classes with the same lecturers. I had final exams that were worth 80% of my grade which worried me in the beginning but turned out to be just fine! All of my instructors were happy to help if I had questions, and there was a tutoring center on campus for any additional questions.

View Brianna's photos on our Facebook page.

Margarette Rogensues

Study abroad: Orleans, France
Major: French and Spanish translation and interpretation
When: Summer 2017 

Why I studied abroad: I studied abroad because I am a French and Spanish translation and interpretation major, an International Relations minor, and a traveler. I knew that this would be a great way to work on my French skills, especially speaking skills which I find the hardest to do in the United States without other native speakers around. I had been to France two times prior with my high school, but it was very structured and we had very little time in any one place so I thought this would be a great way to get a more realistic French living experience, which I thought would be perfect as I plan to live abroad.

My experience: My experience was quite unique since I did an exchange program. It meant that it was a much more independent program. I had several classes during the day but was never given homework or exams, though I did get 6 credits for transfer despite the grades not helping or hurting my GPA at OU. It also meant that I had to figure out how to get from the airport down to my host mother’s house without assistance. They planned no excursions for us, but, since they gave us no homework, there was plenty of time to explore the city and travel. I travelled to an anime convention in Paris on one weekend and Rome with another student from Kansas for a long weekend.

Tips for studying abroad: Start researching early. I can’t express how important this is. Even though I started planning 2 years in advance, because of some issues that were beyond my control, there were some rocky times with planning my trip. I was prepared though so it made those times easier to deal with and push past compared to if I had not done so much research. Figure out the type of trip you want to go on. Do you want to be with other OU students and faculty, or a mix of lots of different types of students but with some guidance, or do you want to have the option to do and see what you want, when you want like I did. Figuring out if you want to do study abroad for credits is another important task and deciding if you want it to help your major, minor, or gen eds can help you narrow down your choices as well until you find the best choice. And finally, don’t feel like you can’t ask for help. Advisors and the rest of the study abroad office staff are very helpful in keeping you on track and making the process as smooth as possible so never forget to use your resources.

View Margarette’s photos on our Facebook page.

Abigail Brown

Study Abroad: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Major: International Relations
When: Spring 2017

Why I Studied Abroad: I had dreamed about studying abroad from the minute I learned that this was a possibility. I have always loved to travel and the thought of living in another country and truly experiencing another culture sounded incredible. I have a Spanish minor and I completely love the language. However, my dream was always to go to Europe, not Latin America. I ended up deciding on my program because I wanted to be able to speak Spanish but I also wanted to go somewhere that was summer while it was winter in Michigan.

Experience: Studying abroad completely changed my life. I became more independent, confident, self-assured, flexible, patient, and brave. I grew up in a small town, so living in a big city was completely foreign to me. Now I cannot wait to live in one again. I was able to walk to the majority of places I wanted to go and when the walk was too far I could always take subways, trains, and buses to travel around. I loved being able to speak Spanish more than English. The coursework was difficult, as it was all in Spanish, but I have never learned more about the language or felt more confident using it. I have been taking Spanish since kindergarten but I would never feel as confident using it if I had not studied abroad. I had an incredible time and I will be eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to have this experience. I would strongly encourage everyone to at the very least consider it and not let money hold them back. There are an abundance of scholarships just waiting to be used, all you need to do is apply and get started.

Advice: My first piece of advice would be to do as much as you can. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would encourage you to make the most of every opportunity. I was lucky enough to stay in the capital of Argentina where there was plenty of things to do for free. I went to museums, concerts, parks, open air markets, and multiple other activities for free. Not everyone has the money to go on lots of trips while they’re abroad, I certainly did not. Not everything you do abroad has to be expensive and some of my favorites memories came from these spur of the moment adventures I took with my friends. My next piece of advice would be to stay with a host family if you’re going to a country that speaks a different language. I was blessed with an incredible host mom and I don’t know how I would have survived those six months without her. Not only was she amazing, but she truly enhanced my ability to speak Spanish. She knew little to no English so I was forced to use Spanish everywhere I went. This was exhausting at first, but it ended up being very beneficial.

View Abby's Photos on our Facebook page.

Hannah Brett

Study Abroad: Segovia, Spain
Major: Spanish K-12
Minor: English
When: Summer 2016

Why I Studied Abroad: My major is Spanish Education, so I want to teach Spanish at the High School or university level.  Studying in a Spanish-speaking country isn't a requirement for my program, but it is highly recommended to truly become fluent in a second language.  After hearing so many people tell me I should do it, I decided it would be worth the money for me.  Other than improving my Spanish, a reason I wanted to go abroad was to see a country I hadn't visited before. I had been to Peru and Mexico a few times while I was in high school (both were amazing experiences!), but I had never been to Europe, which is how I decided on Spain. 

Host Family Experience: I studied in Segovia through a GEO program.  GEO was helpful in getting me the information I needed before the study abroad, setting up my host family, and making everything very clear.  Luckily for me, my host parents were experienced in hosting students, and I was their 10th student from Michigan to live with them!  They provided all my meals, did my laundry, and included me in family get-togethers.  They had a room with a closet and its own bathroom all set up for me, and they have two young kids who were fun to practice my Spanish with.

Highlights: I traveled to Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Valencia on my weekends when we didn't have classes. I am so glad I took those trips, despite having to figure out public transportation, all the packing, and the staying in cheap hostels.  I definitely think making the most of every minute during your study abroad is important.  I kept reminding myself, "splurge and go see another city! This is a once in a lifetime experience." In fact, my one regret is that I didn't travel to bordering countries, France or Portugal while I was there and so close to them!  I was trying to save money, which was extremely important to me.  However, the experience of seeing a new country or a new city so unlike your own is unreal, and flights in within Europe are so cheap, it would've been doable.

Biggest Pieces of Advice: Be organized with your paperwork, and apply for scholarships!  I was able to win a GEO scholarship, the Patti Finnegan Sharff Award from OU, and one other outside scholarship.  It helped so much with the funding for my trip.  Apply early, and to a lot of different scholarships, because they're available and some people don't even try applying! Also, I kept a file with all of my study abroad information, applications, checklists, etc... It was helpful as I prepared for the trip, and I also took the file with me to Spain and kept my important documents like my passport and insurance info in there.  It will all work out and be so worth it once you are living and studying in your dream location! 

View Hannah’s photos on our Facebook page.

Megan Tack

Study abroad: Oviedo, Spain
 Operations Management and Human Resources Management
When: Winter 2016

Why Oviedo, Spain? When I first started studying Spanish, I realized that the more I learned about the language, the more I wanted to explore the culture!  Because of that, I really wanted my study abroad experience to be in a city that didn’t have very much tourism, and where I would be able to only speak Spanish. Oviedo was perfect! Not only was it ideal for language immersion, it is an absolutely beautiful city in the northern Austurian region of Spain. It’s large enough to offer the excitement of both the city and the quieter surrounding mountain farms, and small enough that I was able to feel like I could make it my home. For me, there wasn’t a better place to study abroad!

The best part about studying abroad: The best parts of study abroad were definitely the people I met and the places I visited. By studying in Oviedo, I got to work with students from around the world, and practice Spanish with my new friends from Japan, Belgium, and China. It was incredible to get to meet amazing individuals from so many different countries! By studying abroad, I also had the opportunity to travel everywhere with my friends. Some of my favorite memories are of weekend trips to everywhere from Paris, France, to Santorini, Greece.

Why I would study abroad again (and why you should go!): When I studied abroad I knew that I would improve my Spanish, and I hoped that I would meet new people and get to travel. However, I could never have anticipated all of the wonderful experiences I would have! I got to volunteer at a nearby elementary school, celebrate in the local festivals and parades, and even participate in the ninth annual “Pinchos and Tapas Competition” with my Spanish friends from the region. It’s all of these remarkable and unanticipated experiences that helped make Oviedo my home for the semester, and they’re also the reason I recommend everyone should study abroad!

My study abroad blog is: https://meganinspain.wordpress.com/

View Megan’s photos on our Facebook page.

Alyssa Pouliot

Study abroad: Oxford, England
 Secondary Education English Major, History Minor, American Studies Concentration
When: Winter 2016

Why study abroad? Studying abroad was something I used to dream of, but the reality always seemed so far away. Living abroad in an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar culture is a scary thought. I convinced myself I couldn't do it until my sophomore year at OU, when I found myself inspired by the world around me and how big it truly is. The only thing stopping me from seeing the world was my mindset; how beautiful it is that in this day and age, we can visit anywhere, study anywhere, live anywhere! The first step is to set aside your fears, and recognize that the opportunity is truly unparalleled. Studying abroad was the greatest decision I have made in my young adult life, and I can't wait to help you experience the same!

"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." -Unknown

Why Oxford? In the United States, the UK and British culture has remained an integral part of the humanities curriculum taught to students. From the many connections in history, to all of the British authors, playwrights, poets, artists, and musicians that have and still continue to influence American culture, not to mention the shared language, one might assume they have been more than adequately exposed to all things "British." While I won't deny that England appears less exotic than other places in the world because of this, it is what makes the United States and the UK different that makes England such an engaging, worthwhile country to study abroad in. Oxford, in particular, is quite special. As a town, Oxford is steeped in history and culture, and, of course, is home to one of the most unrivaled academic communities in the world. The second-longest surviving university, the esteemed University of Oxford, was established in the early Middle Ages. It is an institution that miraculously still encapsulates the wonders and magic of medieval times while still remaining a progressive and elite learning establishment. A small, scenic town only an hour away from the hustle and bustle of London, Oxford is an awe-inspiring testament to the preservation of sentiment, education, and time.

My favorite part: The British Studies at Oxford program is a faculty-led program through Oakland University. You travel, live, eat, and study with those in the program with you, including the Oakland and Oxford professors. The group is relatively small, with 10-15 people maximum, and this is what made it so special. The friendships I made during the four-week stay, from both the United States and UK alike, are truly one-of-a-kind. I am so blessed to have experienced all I did while I was abroad, but what made it life-changing were the people I was able to share my adventures with. Studying abroad allows for more than just a shallow tourist experience- you make a life where you stay, and my life at Oxford was enchanting.

My advice: Go! Don't hesitate, now is the time! And once you've decided to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, make sure to pack light, bring walking shoes, buy a good camera, and keep an open mind!

View Alyssa’s photos on our Facebook page.

Natalia Boyko

Study abroad: Segovia, Spain
 International Relations
When: Winter 2016

Activities: The faculty at GEO’s program in Segovia emphasizes the value of communicating with locals and experiencing the culture first-hand. Therefore, there are many immersion opportunities provided. We participated in language exchange with Segovian students at the Academy of Artillery and the University of Valladolid in Segovia. You will also meet many international students from all around Europe and the rest of the world studying at the prestigious IE University in Segovia. There is an opportunity to complete an internship at the non-governmental organization Caritas, the Alcázar (castle) of Segovia, tourism center, artisan shop, English language school and more.

Travel: All regions of Spain vary in customs, dialects, architecture, climate, gastronomy and geography. I traveled on the weekends with classmates to different Spanish cities, such as Sevilla, Valencia, Madrid, Toledo, and Málaga and to the island of Tenerife to experience this rich diversity. Classes were held from Mondays to Thursdays and there were five excursions on Fridays to nearby towns and cities, along with a weekend trip to Córdoba and Granada in the south of Spain.

My advice: Reach out to locals and participate in every celebration possible. There is no better way to experience and learn the language and culture than by taking these steps that may initially seem intimidating. The relationships you develop and the support you receive from the host family, faculty, students, and locals will be present with you even after you leave Spain. Also, many students worry about the costs of studying abroad. However, there are many scholarships offered by OU, the specific study abroad programs, and other public and private funds. Only a small fraction of my study abroad costs were paid for out of pocket. Studying abroad is one of the most important investments for students. They return completely transformed, full of energy and confidence, and filled with new ideas, views and aspirations.

View Natalia's photos on our Facebook page.

Nusrat Jahan

Study abroad: Seoul, South Korea
International Relations, History Minor
When: Fall 2016

Why and Where?: I was first introduced to South Korea by Korean dramas and Korean pop music. Over time my interest in Korean entertainment became an inspiration to learn the language, spurring a genuine desire to learn about the country’s history, culture and traditions. One topic that particularly intrigued me was the relationship between North and South Korea. This interest in international relations played a tremendous role in my life, specifically when it was time to choose a major which eventually led to my desire to study in Korea. While I knew I wanted to study abroad during high school, it took a while to get the process started. After planning I finally decided to take the plunge and study abroad in South Korean during the 2016 fall semester!

During: While abroad, I was able to experience so many aspects of Korean culture. The program I was in had multiple excursions planned throughout the semester. Some of the excursions consisted of traveling to various parts of Korea, hiking up to a Buddhist temple where we were able to witness a ritual being performed, visiting the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and visiting monuments. I attended Yonsei University, where I took an intensive language course and I was able to fulfill one of my long term goals, reading and speaking Korean.

My Advice: There are a lot of components that go into applying for study abroad, do not let this discourage you! When I started the process I was overwhelmed. There was a lot of paperwork, and I also had to think about how to finance my study abroad experience. However, with help from family, friends, professors and the study abroad office, I was able to overcome all of these obstacles. During this process, I learned a lot about studying abroad and about myself. I strongly encourage everyone to take the opportunity and make the most it. This experience has given me valuable insight into a whole different culture. I was able to meet a lot of amazing people from different parts of the world, try the cuisine, learn the language and valuable skills that I will use throughout my life. My time and the memories I made in Korea is something I will never forget and will truly cherish.

See more about my study abroad experience, or view my Facebook photos!

Kiali Curtis

Study abroad: Sevilla, Spain
 Spanish Language and Literature and International Relations
When: Academic School Year 2015-2016

Why Spain? Why Sevilla? Originally, I had my heart set on Chile. I even filled out my visa application but then some things fell through and I chose to go to Spain instead. At first I was crushed because I thought it wasn't what I wanted but as it turned out, Spain (specifically Sevilla and Andalucía) was everything I wanted - and more. Once I had chosen Spain, I researched the available cities and I chose Sevilla because it wasn't as big as a city like Madrid and they didn't have other language influences, like Barcelona. It ended up being one of the greatest decisions and the most life changing experience I've had yet. I fell in love with the culture, became fluent in the language and dialect, and made so many friends from all over the world. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss Andalucía, and because of what this experience has given me, I even decided to buy a one-way ticket back to Sevilla at the end of December where I plan on staying for a long, long time!

Why did I choose to study abroad for a year? I know a year can sound like a long time, but it goes by faster than you think, or want. My goal was to be fluent, and not only that, but to sound like a native Spanish speaker. So I knew that in order achieve my goal I needed to stay for a year. I first started learning Spanish in middle school and I became completely entranced with the language so I continued learning it for 8 more years. Even after all of the years I spent studying, I knew that when I spoke I sounded extremely formal. That's because I never had the opportunity to live in a culture and be around people that only knew and spoke Spanish. In order to be fluent I needed to listen to and interact with people who joked with their friends, used colloquialisms, and had heavy accents: not just be subjected to the language I would hear in a classroom setting. It took about three months to be able to understand the people and the dialect without having to process everything and it took about 6 months to be able to speak as fast as any other Sevilliana. I know that if I would not have studied for the year, I wouldn't be nearly as fluent as I am now. That's how I know that I made the right choice.

My advice: My first bit of advice is that if you're thinking, even a little bit, about studying abroad - do it! If you are worried about finances, how it will fit in your schedule, being away from home, etc.; don't, because all of those things can be handled. There are so many opportunities for you to take advantage of and at the end of it all you won't believe how fast the time flew. If you're going to a country to improve your language skills, don't be nervous about your ability. Speak. Don't be afraid to make yourself look stupid because in reality you are going to look extremely smart; I mean, you can speak a second language! After all, mistakes really are the best way to learn. So once you do decide to go, once you are there, my biggest advice would be to make local friends and try to distance yourself from other Americans. It's super easy to fall into a comfort zone but just remember why you're there! You're there to have an international experience and the best way to fully immerse yourself in the culture of where you're going is to hang out with and be around people from that culture! Of course it's always okay to make new American friends, some of the best friends I made there were American, but just remember that there are plenty of Americans back home to hang out with and you never know when you'll get a chance experience a new culture again!

View Kiali's photos on our Facebook page.

Natasha Holiday

Study abroad: Angers, France
 Health Science Pre-Physical Therapy
When: Fall 2015

Learn a Language: Learning to speak French has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. When I first began to learn French it was because the language is beautiful, and I thought it would be pretty cool to know a second language. I still think the language is beautiful and that it would be cool to know a second language, but now I've also thought about the personal and professional benefits of knowing a second language. Did you know that French and English are the only two languages taught in most education systems around the world? French is spoken on all 5 continents, and there are 29 countries that speak French an official language. That gives you a lot of options if you decide to work outside the United States or work with a business that has international branches.

Why France? When looking at the study abroad programs offered I decided the Language and Culture Immersion program in Angers, France hosted by Global Education Oregon (GEO) was the best option for me. Classes were available for students of all levels from beginner to advanced, and it had been seven years since I had taken any French classes, so I was pretty rusty. I was able to visit many cities all over France and every city was exciting, but I think my favorite place was Angers. Angers is France's 23th largest city which means it's large enough to have a healthy nightlife, plenty of restaurants, museums, and city activities such as the Market de Noël and the Saint Martin Carnival, not to mention its own château, but it's small enough that it's not overwhelming, crawling with people, and super touristy like the larger cities. The most interesting place I visited would be Versailles. The château of Versailles is absolutely gorgeous! Every room in Versailles has a theme and almost all of them have very intricate and beautiful murals on the ceilings. The grounds had multiple gardens and fountains everywhere!

My advice: If you have ever thought about study abroad --even in passing-- I encourage you to go for it! You will learn so much about the subject you decide to study while earning OU credit. You'll also learn not only about the culture of the country you're studying in, but you will also get to know students of other foreign countries who are studying with you, and you'll be able to get a different perspective about America that is hard to see when you are at home. You might not think study abroad is applicable to your major; I know I got a lot of puzzled looks for being a Pre-PT major who wanted to go to France for French language, but there is ALWAYS a way to make a study abroad experience applicable to ANY degree or profession, so don't let anyone tell you that studying abroad is silly for your area of study. Just go for it, you won't be sorry that you did!"

View Natasha's photos on our Facebook page!

Alexandria Sharpe

Study Abroad: France
When: Winter 2015

Favorite times: My favorite times were the times I spent together with my host family. I stayed with three younger children so we all played games and watched movies together. They were great opportunities to bond and improve my language skills. I also enjoyed all of my travels throughout Europe. I was able to go and see so many different things. There are so many things to be learned outside of a classroom!

Advice for students: If you have any interest in studying abroad, do it! There are many smaller details that could stand in the way of you traveling: finances, scheduling issues or fear. But with proper planning many of these issues can be avoided or minimized. Apply for scholarships, do your paperwork early, plan your schedule in advance. There are plenty of resources available to you! Studying abroad is a life changing experience—do it now and you will not regret it!

Benefits of studying abroad: For me, I gained a sense of confidence and independence. I had never been so far from home. If I had any problems, I had to solve them on my own. If I wanted to travel, I would have to make the arrangements myself. It was all very daunting. I learned so many things and saw so many interesting sights. It is amazing how your perspective on your own culture is enhanced with the knowledge of other countries. I was also able to enhance my French language skills.

Patrick Ruehle

Study Abroad: London, England
 Communications  Minor: Broadcasting
When: Summer 2014

Best part about my time abroad: It's hard for me to pick one experience that would be my favorite while studying abroad. My entire time in London was such an amazing experience that my entire time abroad would be my favorite experience. If I had to pick one experience, as a huge Harry Potter fan, I would probably pick touring the Warner. Bros. Harry Potter studio.

My most interesting experience: Living in a different country is definitely an interesting experience in itself. Getting used to the social norms and cultures abroad is very interesting.  Probably the most interesting thing about studying abroad was that going to England I wasn't expecting there to be too much of a culture shock going from America and life in England (mainly because they speak English) and because they have a lot of the same restaurants and stores as we do. What was very interesting was how different life was in England compared to America. The British way of life is a lot different than the way we live here in United States. 

View Patrick's photos on our Facebook page!

Louise Haven

Study abroad: Israel & England
 Anthropology & Biology
When: June/July 2012, 2013, 2014

I have been lucky enough to have studies abroad three times: I have been to Israel during the summers of 2013 and 2014 with the Archaeology in Israel program, and to England in the summer of 2013 as a part of the British Studies at Oxford Program.

Amazing archaeology programs: I was digging at Khirbet Qeiyafa in 2012 and at Lachish in 2014. I was able to learn so much about archaeology by working on digs at two different sites, it was hard work but it was so worth it. Aside from the time spent at the dig, I visited many places of archaeological and historical important - cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Akko, Tiberias, Ein Gedi and sites such as Masada, Meggido, Beit Alpha, Beit She'an, Capernaum, and many more. I have even gone swimming the Mediterranean Sea, dipped my feet into the Sea of Galilee, and floated in the Dead Sea!

Absolute favorite place: the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve located on the edge of the Judean desert and on the coast of the Dead Sea. It was a whole new world in comparison to the desert surrounding the park. There was a great diversity of plant and animal life, and the cutest little animals called hyraxes. There were several waterfalls and you could swim in the pools underneath them! Of all the falls, David's Waterfall was the most stunning. We hiked up Mount Yishai to the Chalcolithic temple near the top, and the view of the Dead Sea from there was absolutely breathtaking! This was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen-words can't even do it justice.

Most magical: For the British Studies program, I lived on campus at Brasenose College, right in the middle of the city near all the most iconic buildings like the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, and the Sheldonian Theatre. While I was there I studied Medieval Literature, and I fell in completely in love with Oxford - from its beautiful colleges to the incredible museums and historical pubs. Really just about everything was absolutely magical. I visited many different places in London, and I also went to Bath, Avebury, Stonehenge, Blenheim Palace, Stratford-upon-Avon, and even took a day to visit family in Rugby. My favorite experience would have to be seeing A midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe Theatre in London - I love seeing Shakespeare's plays and for this one I got to stand right next to the stage!  Punting on the Cherwell was also a very memorable experience, though I was not at all good at it! After the program, I traveled to Paris, Rome, and Barcelona.

Advice for students: I highly recommend studying abroad; it is an experience that can benefit everyone. You gain a lot of knowledge in the classroom, but you also learn a lot just by exploring and experiencing different things. Studying abroad allows you to grow as both a person and as a global citizen. You don't just visit a different culture, you live it. For me personally, the benefits of studying abroad are innumerable - I've become much more confident in myself, more independent, more understanding, and certainly much more eager to travel!! If you have the time and means to do so, definitely study abroad. I promise that you will not regret it!

View Louise's photos on our Facebook page!

Carolyn McGee

Study abroad: Oxford, England
When: Summer 2013

Best part about studying abroad: The opportunity to live and study in the city of Oxford! 

Highlights of Oxford: I climbed to the top of St. Mary’s Church, toured the Bodleian Library, visited the Ashmolean Museum, and went punting on the river. On excursions I visited Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, in the city of Bath saw the Roman baths and climbed to the top of Bath Abbey.

Best thing about studying in Oxford: Oxford University’s Brasenose College, founded in the 1500s, was where I lived, had meals in its medieval dining hall, and studied in its library and classrooms. The college was in the center of the city, so the university’s other colleges, library, and museums were within walking distance.

Most memorable moments: In London, I saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, visited the National Gallery, and saw Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theater. On a class trip, I also went to the British Museum and Tower of London, and in Stratford-Upon-Avon visited Anne Hathaway’s cottage and saw a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theater. 

View Carolyn's photos on our Facebook page!

Kate Bumhoffer

Study abroad: China
When: May 2012

During the summer of 2012 I was in China with 9 other students. Accompanied by an OU Chinese professor, we were studying at China Foreign Affairs University for about 5 weeks. In the mornings we attended Chinese speaking, listening, and reading classes with other study abroad students from all over the world. In the afternoons, we sat in on various cultural lectures specially designed for our OU group.

As a student with a Chinese minor, it was fantastic to finally be able to connect the language I had been studying for so long with the country it belonged to. The program was centrally located in Beijing, so we were able to easily explore on our own and practice what we were learning in the classroom. All these learning opportunities were invaluable - but I would have to say my most favorite part of our trip was the last week travel tour of China.

Aside from regular weekend field-trips to the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and other marvelous and historically significant sites, our last week in China took us away from Beijing while we toured other major Chinese cities. We stopped in Xi'an, Guilin, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Zhouzhuang - all of which displayed its unique contribution to Chinese culture and offered new and exciting sights and experiences. This China study abroad experience not only cultivated my desire to travel and explore but also opened my eyes to the fascinating world outside of American culture. Whether visiting China or not, I would strongly recommend studying abroad to every student!

View Kate's photos on our Facebook page!

Alana Hartley

Study abroad: Segovia, Spain
 Linguistics Minor: Spanish
When: Fall 2013

Best part about studying in Segovia: I not only improved my language skills and learned about Spanish civilization, but also made lasting friendships with both locals and fellow study abroad students. 

Highlights of Segovia: I lived with a host family who had two daughters close to my age, so that was a really great experience. I was also able to complete an internship as a teacher's assistant in an English-language after school program for kids. 

Most enriching experience: To go to class and volunteer in a foreign country. It really opened my eyes to the wide array of cultural differences that exist in the world. 

Best part about studying abroad: It definitely left me wanting more international experiences and cultural exchanges, and I feel that with the knowledge and confidence gained through my travels abroad, anything is possible.

View Alana's photos on our Facebook page!

Alex Pieters

Study abroad: New Zealand
 Pre-Physical Therapy
When: Fall 2012

On choosing the youngest country in the world: Every other country in the world was discovered before any human laid foot in New Zealand. The country is inhabited by only 5 million people today, approximately half the population of Michigan. Because of its young history and relatively small population, New Zealand has remained an untouched sanctuary for nature enthusiasts. Being an outdoorsy individual, the pristine and beautiful country of New Zealand was the perfect fit for me.

Highlights of New Zealand: I stayed in a flat on the University of Otago campus and lived with two Kiwis and three Americans. We had several great experiences: attending rugby games; shopping at local farmers markets; learning and understanding the Maori culture; biking and running with the locals; skydiving in Queenstown; climbing Mt. Taranaki; running the annual Moro marathon in Dunedin; and traveling to Milford Sound with my mom.

Favorite class: New Zealand Literature because I was able to dive into the history of a burgeoning country that possesses a rich and vibrant past. I had the opportunity to peruse texts written by Katherine Mansfield, Robin Hyde and Janet Frame. I learned how New Zealand is characterized as a “settler nation,” colonized by Great Britain and inhabited by the native Maori — this social interaction still underpins its society today.

Best part about studying abroad: Getting to know the locals. The Kiwis generally have a great perspective on life, which balances fun, enjoyment and relationships — things I believe Americans sometimes place as secondary to personal success, ambition and achievement. The hospitality and friendliness the locals exhibited made me feel at home, even when I was so far away from it. I am so grateful and appreciative to them.

View Alex's photos on our Facebook page!

Jessica Griffiths

Study away: Hawai'i
When: Winter 2014

The best part of studying away: Studying away allowed me to experience a new place in a unique way. To see a place while on a vacation only scratches the surface of what an area has to offer. With the NSE program I was able to see the area as a local. I lived and breathed the culture and the history. Hawai'i especially intrigued me because the culture and history are extremely rich and colorful, and it was like being in another country.

Highlights of Hawai'i: NO SNOW! Unless you happen to stumble on up to Mauna Kea (technically the tallest mountain the the world), the you could find snow. Snorkeling in Hawai'i was probably my favorite part of the whole experience. The bright corals and colorful fish and sea life were like nothing I had ever seen before. The warm salty air and green vegetation was a nice change from our typical Michigan winters. The food in Hawai'i surprised me the most. I had no idea, even having been to Hawai'i previously, that the food was so completely different from what we experience here. Lau Lau is a Hawaiian favorite and staple, it is kaulua pork and fish wrapped in kia leaves, then wrapped again in banana leaf. These tasty morsels are made in bulk and then buried under smoldering ash and volcanic rocks and cooked overnight.

View Jessica's photos on our Facebook page!

Brie McGrath

Study abroad: Segovia, Spain
 Spanish K - 12
When: Summer 2014

Segovia is a great place to study abroad! The locals are very nice and the city is beautiful!

Most valuable experience from studying abroad: I was able to improve my Spanish speaking skills while also learning about Spain and its culture. My home stay experience forced me to speak Spanish which ultimately improved by speaking skills.

One best thing about my time in Segovia: I learned so much about the language and the culture. While I was in Spain, I was able to see the festivals of San Juan and San Pedro in Segovia which lasted for two weeks. Every night during the two weeks, people would gather in the town square to listen to concerts, watch dancers, or participate in traditions such as burning papers with the bad things that happened to you in the year in order to bring good luck. It was such an amazing experience! 

View Brie's photos on our Facebook page!

Jackie Spezia

Study abroad: Oviedo, Spain
Major: Spanish Language and Literature
When: Spring 2012

Oviedo is a wonderful city for Spanish majors, such as myself, and others looking to be immersed in the Spanish language and culture. Very few people speak English in Oviedo, including the host family I lived with. I loved living with a host family that didn't speak English because it forced me to use and improve my Spanish speaking skills. Upon my return to OU all of my professors noticed and commented on the improvement they noticed in my accent and speaking ability. 

One of the best things about my time abroad was the conversation partner program I participated in. I met twice a week with an Oviedo native, Camino, who was trying to learn English. We would speak in English one day and in Spanish the other, so that we could each practice. We talked about everything: the differences between our cultures, the difficulties of learning each other’s language, our families, our love-lives, you name it. At the end of my 5 month stay it was hard to say goodbye as we had become such close friends. But thanks to modern technology we stay in touch through Facebook. 

During my time in Oviedo I had the opportunity to travel around Spain and parts of Western Europe. Once you are in Europe it is very cheap to travel around. A flight from Spain to France is around $40! During my Spring Break I traveled to France and Italy with two other students from the AHA program. We visited the Coliseum in Rome, St. Mark's square in Venice, and the Louvre in Paris, just to name a few. It was amazing trip that I will never forget. 

If I could give any advice to students thinking about studying abroad it would be - go for it! I know the dollar amounts and paper work can seem overwhelming at times but just relax and know that no matter what, the experience will be worth it. 

View Jackie's photos on our Facebook page!

Holly Cavanaugh

Study abroad: Argentina
 International Relations & Spanish Language
When: Fall 2014

Why Argentina?: I chose Argentina because as a Spanish major I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country. Argentina has a little taste of everything: beautiful cities, mountains,  glaciers, and much more. From the second I arrived I knew I had made the right choice. The people were so welcoming, that it made the overwhelming feeling of traveling to some unknown land much easier for me.

Favorite times: Study abroad gave me a chance to do what I have always wanted, and that is to travel and see more of what this this huge planet has to offer. My courses and schedule allowed me to travel during my weekends. Not to mention Argentina has national holidays all the time so I often had long weekends. I used this time to visit Igazu falls, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. The times I wasn't traveling I was completely immersed in this beautiful culture back in Rosario.

My Recommendations: Study abroad was truly the most incredible and unforgettable experience of my life. There is a program out there that suits everyone. I believe travel really does broaden the mind. I experienced this first hand. I came back much more outgoing, adventurous, positive person because I was able to see different cultures, meet new interesting people, live as a foreigner, travel alone and was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone. My recommendation to anyone contemplating study abroad would be to just do it! There is no time like the present.

View Holly's photos on our Facebook page!

Dan Gildner

Study abroad: Segovia, Spain
 Psychology and Spanish
When: Summer 2014

Best part of studying abroad: Traveling to all parts of Spain with my colleagues! During the weekends we traveled to Santiago, La Coruna, Madrid, Salamanca, and I of course ventured through Segovia. It's difficult to pinpoint a specific experience that was the highlight of my trip because there were so many meaningful memories, but the friends I made abroad definitely made the experience.

Most interesting experience while in Spain: From eating octopus and drinking Sangria to mistakenly ordering a lemon shot and a chocolate dessert are just a few of my interesting experiences. Also, the first week that I arrived in Segovia, the whole town was out celebrating in honor of their patron Saints and to this day, I have never seen an entire city out during the early morning hours. In Segovia, it's common to stay out until 3 or 4 a.m. during festivals.

Advice for students: This past summer was by far the coolest thing that I have ever done in my life and I can't wait to go back to visit with my host family and the friends that I have in Segovia. If you get the chance be sure to study abroad because, like my experience, it will be something you remember for the rest of your life. I can't recommend our study abroad programs enough both for educational and emotional growth.

View Dan's photos on our Facebook page!

Noor Najim

Study abroad: Paris, France
Major: Psychology, Minor: Sociology
When: Fall 2015

Why did I choose France? I was always intrigued by France and its history. I have always loved France, my interest in France grew as I learned about the French revolution. I think that everything in France is beautiful, the buildings, gardens, and even the little shops are unique. Also Paris is filled with Art from Castles and museums to the corners of the buildings, it all has such great beautiful artistic details.

My favorite place: The place that I always dreamed of visiting was Versailles.  I knew that no matter what I would have to go there and see it for myself while studying abroad in France. My CIEE program took us on multiple trips to various parts of France, but Versailles was not one of the planned trips. Of course I had to go, so I found a few friends who wanted to go as well, and we went there on the weekend.  It was the most breathtaking place that I have ever seen, I am really glad that I went to the place that means so much to me, it was definitely rewarding and I know that I will cherish those memories forever.

The benefits of studying abroad: First I felt a great sense of accomplishment, and I know that I am capable of pushing myself further now. I got to meet great friends that I still keep in touch with today. I got to explore new places, improve my language skills. Now I have a better understanding of other cultures and traditions. Also now I am more willing to actually go to new places and explore. I think that the greatest benefit of studying abroad is the new perspective that you gain, you start seeing the world in a new and different way.

My advice: I would recommend going to a place that means something to you, that way your experience will be much more rewarding. Explore and don’t let simple negative things effect you while abroad. Look at the bigger picture: you’re abroad in a great place that you might never visit again. Enjoy every moment as much as possible, and that way you won’t have any regrets.

View Noor's photos on our Facebook page!