Study abroad programs draw students early

March 6, 2014 6:19 AMComments Off

Story by Cassidy Myers

First-year Drake University student Bailey Torkelson was only two months into her college career when she made an appointment to meet with Jen Hogan, associate director of international programs and services and education abroad.

Torkelson, who had known coming into Drake that she wanted to study abroad, left the Center for International Programs and Services after her meeting with handfuls of literature about the various programs offered through Drake and a great deal of excitement about her prospective opportunities.

These kind of meetings are frequent for Hogan, who helps Drake students find and plan study abroad programs that match their educational and financial needs, interests and offer them a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“The most rewarding part of my job is when students come back and say that I was part of something that changed their life,” Hogan said.

According to Drake’s study abroad web page, by working with other international institutions and study abroad programs, Drake is able to offer hundreds of programs in over 70 different countries.

Drake sophomore Kim Hennen is studying at Universität Salzburg in Salzburg, Austria, for the spring semester.

She said she planned to go to a German-speaking country because of her German lineage.

“I wanted to get back to my roots and learn about my heritage,” Hennen said in an email.

Although Hennen has only been in Europe for two weeks, she’s already been able to visit England and Germany and has plans to travel to Hungary, France, Italy and the Czech Republic.

“I would recommend studying abroad a thousand times over,” said Hennen in an email. “It definitely expands your horizons and opens your mind to the ideas and values of other countries.”

January terms offer a shorter cultural experience for those who don’t want to go abroad for months at a time, but Hogan warns that students don’t gain as much cultural immersion on a J-term trip as they would over an entire semester.

“If you can go for longer, it proves to be the most transformative,” Hogan said.

Students who participate in semester-long programs are able to do more than just immerse themselves in the culture.

Some programs allow them to immerse themselves into their host country’s workforce as well.

Many programs offer students the opportunity to apply for internships during their stay.

All of these experiences can lead to incredible changes for the students who participate.

“You’re more independent than you could ever be going to a university back home,” Hennen said.

“Students are able to really grow as people,” Hogan said. “I’ve seen so many who transform when they come back. It really gives students time to think about who they are and what they want.”

Torkelson, who is just in the first stages of planning her semester abroad, has begun to seriously consider going to Spain due to her interest in Europe and her previous high school Spanish experience.

Wherever she goes, Torkelson is sure she’s going to have an incredible time.

“It’s really important to see the world,” Torkelson said. “I think it makes you a better person if you’re exposed to different cultures and understand people better.”

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