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Drake students study abroad over January Term


This year, many Drake University students studied abroad over January Term. 

Students traveled to places like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Thailand. Each location offered many new opportunities and experiences for students, including many who had never traveled abroad before.

“Going on this trip helped me realize I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing,” said Amber Hussain, a sophomore studying musical theater and digital media production. 

Hussain traveled to London for J-Term and had the opportunity to take a theater history class. 

Students remained in London the entire time, either walking places, taking the bus or riding the tube – London’s equivalent of an underground subway.

Hussain said there wasn’t any major culture shock other than small things everyone had to get used to. Most of the food was the same as here in the US, other than fish and chips, which she said she personally wasn’t a fan of.

“They’re very nice over there,” Hussain said. “We met a lot of locals who were all willing to help us like when we got lost – very different from Americans.”

She said they didn’t have many structured lectures. Most of the time, they all met as a group at a specific location to watch a show or do a workshop but then got to go out and do what they wanted on their own.

“It was the perfect balance between structured classes and exploration on our own,” she said.

Hussain got to visit many museums but said she enjoyed just wandering around the most, as it allowed her to really experience the city as a whole.

The biggest highlight for her was the many live shows she got to watch, including “Wicked,” “Back to the Future the Musical,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and many more.

Hussain said it was one of her all-time favorite experiences.

“It made me realize I want to live there at some point, whether right after college or sometime down the road,” Hussain said.

Another trip that occurred over J-Term was a trip to New Zealand. Students on that trip took a business communications course. Among the students on that trip was sophomore Emma Gerdeman, a computer science major at Drake.

“Most of the work happened before we even left,” Gerdeman said. “[The] majority of the trip felt like a vacation with a few presentations sprinkled about.”

Gerdeman said each student had to give a different presentation about an activity they had done. She gave one about the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.

“One thing that I found interesting was how focused the country is on environmental issues,” Gerdeman said. “They have a very environmentally sustainable society.”

Besides that, she said it felt culturally similar to the United States.

The students traveled to multiple cities across New Zealand, including Wellington, Auckland, Rotorua, and Marlborough. 

Gerdeman and the other students partook in activities such as hiking, ziplining, and relaxing on the beach. 

Tyler Strachan, a sophomore studying graphic design and public relations, spent J-Term in the Netherlands and took a class called Global Legal Response to Climate Change.

The students learned about different ways to tackle climate change from a global and legal perspective. 

“Climate change is obviously very scary, but this class gave me a little hope that there are still steps we can take to do as little damage as possible to our Earth,” Strachan said.

She said while visiting, there were many things she had to adapt to culturally and socially, as it was very different from the United States. 

“There were some unusual things I noticed a lot, such as the lack of public restrooms and having to pay for water,” Strachan said. “They are also very slow moving as opposed to the U.S. where everything feels more fast-paced.”

Strachan also emphasized how friendly the Dutch were.

The students on the trip got to spend time in both Amsterdam and The Hague. They visited many art museums, both classical and modern, and spent plenty of time exploring both cities. 

“The longest walk I did was like 40 minutes around Amsterdam, but it’s so pretty you don’t even mind,” Strachan said. 

For actual school work, students got to do company visits and see what different companies were doing regarding the climate. They also met with law professors from the University of Amsterdam.

Strachen highly recommended this trip to anyone who wants to travel, even if they’re not into science or law. She also recommended traveling abroad in general.

“Everyone should go abroad at some point. Even if you don’t like it, it’s about the experience,” Strachan said. “It opens up everyone’s eyes and broadens their perspectives.”

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