Students encourage studying abroad to make friends, experience new places

Watching a soccer game from San Mamés stadium in Spain, hearing a concert at the Auckland Arts Festival in New Zealand, strolling the gardens of the Tokyo Imperial Palace or taking a weekend trip to Machu Picchu probably isn’t part of your typical week at school.

But through study abroad programs, students have the chance to explore new places, experience new cultures and make new friends – often while paying the same tuition they would pay at Wichita State.

“Studying abroad is the best decision I’ve made in my entire life,” said Dillon Cott, who spent a semester at University of Chester in England his sophomore year. “All of the things I did at Wichita State, as far as student organizations go, they all pointed me to it.”

While abroad, Cott traveled to eight countries. He said the travel and meeting new people were the highlights of his experience.

“Studying abroad challenged me by placing me in an environment of people and circumstances that I wouldn’t have normally had here in the United States,” Cott said. “It pushed me to grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Study abroad really opened the door to other possibilities and friendships.”

Students interested in studying abroad have several options through WSU.

WSU has exchange agreements with universities in England, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Spain that allow students to continue paying regular WSU tuition and fees while attending school abroad.

WSU also offers summer programs led by WSU faculty such as a Spanish language program in Puebla, Mexico, a European travel seminar and a voice and opera program in Florence, Italy.

Other programs, such as the International Student Exchange Program, allow students to select from more than 100 sites where they can live for a semester or a year. This option also allows students to spend one semester in one location and the next semester in another.

Taben Azad, a junior in mechanical engineering, spent over a month in China this summer taking an engineering economy class.

“It was a great trip. It was a good experience and we got to meet a lot of nice people,” Azad said.

The class consisted of both WSU students and students from China.

“Making a lot of friends was a bit surprising because of the language barrier but it was really nice to meet a lot of people,” Azad said.

Because the group just took one class, they spent a lot of their time exploring the city and visiting temples, palaces and the Great Wall of China.

“I definitely benefitted in a lot of ways. Aside from the experience, I gained another perspective on a different country,” Azad said. “I learned a different perspective of international students and how there’s a language barrier here, too. It’s difficult coming to a new country and learning a new language in addition to taking classes.”

Although Azad had initially been hesitant about taking the trip, he said he’s glad he did and would encourage students to take advantage of travel opportunities they may have.

“I would tell them you should go. It’s a good experience to have,” Azad said. “Either you like traveling or you don’t, but I wouldn’t not go because you’re scared of traveling. Who knows, it might be fun for you.”

For students majoring in international business, study abroad is required. The business school has exchange programs in Austria, China, Germany, France, Spain and Sweden.

“For a lot of students, it was a good experience and a chance to see and experience things they wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Ann Burger, the business study abroad coordinator. “For some of them, it’s their first experience to leave the U.S. or even Kansas. It’s an eye-opening experience for a lot of them. I think they come back and appreciate things a little more.”

Burger said spending time abroad gives students important exposure to new places, cultures and languages, and helps them become more confident and independent. But she also emphasized the value of the friendships and connections students often make while abroad.

“We have students who, after the study abroad experience, have decided to live abroad,” Burger said.

Students interested in studying abroad can attend an information session offered by the study abroad office.

Sessions are held every two weeks at the Garvey International Center. For more information, call 316-978-3232 or email Study Abroad Adviser Shan Jabara at [email protected].