Students studying aboard return with new outlook

Latvia, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Czech Republic.

These are all countries Wichita State junior Caleb Smith, a major in aerospace engineering, visited while studying abroad from March to July.

While studying the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg, Germany, Smith participated with a team and designed a unique solution for a dual-purpose rapid decompression panel and emergency exit for large passenger aircraft. He worked with three other international students.

Smith is one of more than 100 students Ann Burger has directly worked with as the associate director for Study Abroad and Exchange Programs in the Office of International Education.

Burger said a countless number of students return from their international experience with a new outlook about life.

“I remember one student in particular,” Burger said. “She had met so many people in Europe who spoke multiple languages and she only spoke English. She had such an increased awareness of other cultures and languages that she decided to … study Spanish as a result of her study abroad experience.”  

Burger said she studied in Mexico and lived with a host family. She spoke Spanish daily, she said, and later worked for a year in Chile. Those experiences gave her insight into the value of study abroad programs.

That is why she took the job she has now.

Alumnus Tim Wilson went to Guangzhou, China, to study at Sun Yat-sen University, where he enrolled in business classes and taught English in 2008.

He said he initially traveled to China for adventure, but went back because he got a job offer.

Immediately after graduating in 2010 with majors in international business and marketing, Wilson received a job offer and began working in Shanghai, China, as a research analyst at The CID Group, one of Taiwan’s largest venture capital funds. He said he provided a unique and global perspective to the research as the only non-Asian employee.

Now, Wilson is an investment manager responsible for sourcing and structuring new investment opportunities.

“I love what I do now,” Wilson said. “I hope to continue doing this and having the chance to help companies grow.”

Alumnae Nicole Herndlbauer studied abroad from 2009 to 2010 in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. She said there are sometimes downsides to studying abroad.

Herndlbauer said she did not speak fluent German and played charades at the bank in order to pay her bills. She said basic errands — such as trying to catch a bus to the grocery store before it closes — can become stressful and time consuming.

“But in the end, when I look back at all of the problems and pains, it makes me smile,” Herndlbauer said. “The difficulties and embarrassments often lead to the best stories later on.”

Herndlbauer also met her future husband, Thomas, during her one year in Austria.

Now Herndlbauer lives in Vienna with her husband and works at an atomic energy agency, a United Nations organization, where she works to strengthen worldwide nuclear security with individuals from around the world.

Caleb Smith, the junior who studies all over Europe last spring, and his design project team eventually presented their project to Airbus.

“Now I’ve navigated one of the busiest airports in the world (London Heathrow) with only a one and half hour layover [and] been to nine foreign countries,” Smith said. “While I’ll admit that I still have a long way to go before I will be able to speak German (fluently), I know a lot more than I did before I left.”

Students interested in studying abroad can sign up for information sessions online at or email [email protected].