Students looking into study abroad programs have certain choices to make. Do they want to study in an English-speaking country or not? Do they want to stay in a first-or third-world country? Should they study abroad for a summer, a semester or a whole year? What are they hoping to gain from their experience? For some students, it ultimately comes down to coin toss. For others, one is simply not enough.
International relations and history major Hannah Borge is currently spending her second full semester abroad. After spending the fall 2010 semester in Grenoble, France, Borge was itching to go back to Europe.
“Soon after I returned from France, I went in to see Jen Hogan about doing another semester abroad,” Borge said. “She just smiled and said ‘the bug bit you hard, didn’t it?’ I was hooked.”
Assistant director of international programs and services Jen Hogan said it’s unusual, but not unheard of, for students to do a second semester abroad. She said about five percent of students make a second full-semester trip.
Though Borge said she loved her first time studying abroad, it gave her a better idea of what she wanted out of her second go-around.
“I knew what had and hadn’t worked in Grenoble, so it helped me to narrow it down,” Borge said. “So far, this second experience has been amazing, and I think I fit in here more than I did in Grenoble.”
The real challenge for Borge was getting her study abroad credits aligned with the requirements for her two majors and minor to graduate on time.
“It has taken a lot of time and effort to get it all sorted out,” Borge said.
“For students who do multiple study abroads, it’s a stretch to make sure all the credits work toward their degree,” Hogan said. “It’s too bad you can’t get a degree in study abroad.”
Borge is hoping to go to a graduate or law school abroad post-graduation and to ultimately work with the United Nations on development projects in Africa.
Like Borge, Lukas Olynyk is no stranger to travel. At the tender age of 21 he’s gone to 18 different countries, studied abroad in Jordan and volunteered in Kenya and Palestine.
Olynyk credits his wanderlust to his parents’ constant encouragement to travel — not vacation — but rather to go out of their way to experience different cultures, languages and people.
“Studying, volunteering, working or traveling abroad defines who you are as a human being. We’re all on this planet together, might as well try to figure out what others are going through,” Olynyk said. “Studying abroad widened my perspective and allowed me to approach the rest of my Drake experience with a different, more open and matured point-of-view.”
Olynyk said as an international relations major studying Arabic and the Middle East, his semester abroad in Jordan helped him further understand the people, culture and language in a greater capacity than he would have attained in the U.S.
“You gain a different perspective, a worldview that is simply unachievable from your living room or classroom,” Olynyk said.
During his semester in Jordan, Olynyk lived with a Muslim family, studied Arabic from native speakers and was immersed in the Arab culture.
“Complete immersion is always the best way to understand what you’re studying,” Olynyk said. “Just as a future doctor works on cadavers, I wanted to experience my interests and my passions first-hand.”
While his adventures abroad are numerous, his volunteer work and study abroad experiences have only fueled the fire and have Olynyk yearning to go abroad again — this time on a more permanent basis.
Recently Olynyk applied and was accepted into the Peace Corps, and will be serving as a sustainable agriculture extension agent in Senegal from September 2012 to December 2014.
“The Peace Corps will change my life, but I know that I’ll need to go to graduate school if I want to make a difference in the field I’m pursuing,” Olynyk said. “After that, I would love to work abroad in either Africa or the Middle East.”
International relations major Ian Weller has also secured a job post-graduation thanks to his study abroad experiences. After he graduates this spring, Weller will be stationed abroad as a surface warfare officer for the Navy.
“I was picked up by the Navy for my Arabic skills and cultural experience,” Weller said. “I’m excited to see where that takes me.”
For Weller, it was a high school trip to Paris that had him hankering for more global experiences.
“France was cool for my first time factor — you never forget your first love and you never forget the first time you cross an ocean,” Weller said. “It starts to become addicting, the concept of waking up in new areas and really testing yourself.”
Since that initial taste of life abroad, Weller spent the two subsequent summers in Jordan, participated in Drake’s first study seminar in Egypt and started out spring of 2011 in Egypt before being evacuated to Muscat, Oman due to revolutions in Egypt.
It’s his experiences abroad that Weller said he’s learned the most from.
“Revolutions were no longer dates in my notebook, but events I was witnessing,” Weller said. “And one understands the importance of water and development with regards to empires and even basic living by being in the desert.”
While some Drake students say they don’t want to go abroad because they’ll miss out on the college experience, Weller argues that adventures abroad only add to college life.
“The Library and Relays are great, but college has so much more value and tangible experiences (with) international sojourn,” Weller said.
STUDENTS LOVE GOING TO OTHER COUNTRIES
Check out photos from students’ trips abroad at www.drake.edu/international/study-abroad/gallery
To learn more about Weller’s abroad adventures visit ianwellerdrake.blogspot.com
Find out how students have kept their abroad memories alive through DU-IT, Drake University International Travel, a student organization