Study Abroad Ambassadors are students who have recently studied abroad and are eager to share their experience, wisdom and advice with prospective study abroad students. If you need information about a particular country, program or have concerns about traveling to a new place feel free to contact an Ambassador!
Meet the Fall 2016 ambassadors!
Name: Luke Bishop
Major: Romance Languages
Minors: Linguistics, International Studies
Study Abroad Programs: Spring 2015: University of Vigo, Spain (ISEP); Summer 2015: Ifalpes French Institute, Annecy, France (Truman faculty-led); Summer 2016: Azerbaijan University of Languages, Baku, Azerbaijan (Critical Language Scholarship–US Department of State)
Why you decided to study abroad: As a language major, I knew it would be a good idea to study abroad in order to increase my fluency. After my first study abroad trip, I realized, in addition to language goals, how personally enriching international experiences were, and have since studied abroad two more times! My study abroad experiences have motivated me to pursue a career involving international travel.
The highlights of your study abroad trips: I visited many beautiful cities and ate many delicious foods, but nothing compares to the friendships I formed with people from around the world. Many of these friendships have lasted well beyond my studies, and I’m confident that some will last forever. However, some of my favorite experiences included paragliding in the French Alps, seeing wild horses on a mountain in Spain, being ten feet away from Pope Francis in Rome, and helping catalogue a small language called Xınalıq, spoken in a remote mountain village in Azerbaijan.
Your favorite quote from abroad: “Caminante, no hay camino; se hace camino al andar.” (“Traveler, there is no path; you make the path by walking.”) This quote is actually a verse from a Spanish poem by Antonio Machado, but it was(/is) my mantra: don’t worry about what other people are doing — forge your own path!
Best piece of advice that you received while you were abroad or that you have for people going abroad: Have a good time, but don’t do things that will jeopardize your ability to soak up the unique culture of wherever you are! Remember, you can stay out until 6:00 am in the US, but you can’t tour amazing castles and cities and museums and vineyards in Kirksville — so let yourself take advantage of every unique opportunity you can while you’re abroad! Also, don’t be afraid to intentionally distance yourself from other Americans. Sometimes it makes it easier to make local friends and to get language practice in.
What (kind of skills) did you learn abroad: I learned to budget money, to travel independently, to relate to people and find common ground from all different backgrounds, to figure out how to communicate when my language skills were lacking, to make the most of my resources, and to make the best of a difficult situation — and that’s just the start!
What kind of issues (political, cultural, etc.) did you experience while living in a new culture (specific events, cultural practices, etc.): Of course I had linguistic challenges in each country, and not being able to communicate at first was especially difficult in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan also presented some unique challenges in terms of antiquated attitudes towards gender, non-Western toilets, and sometimes no running water (in more remote villages).
How will you apply your study abroad experiences in the future: My study abroad experiences are not just something that I will use in my future — they are something that has determined what I want my future to be. I plan to use my language skills (acquired while abroad) in my future, and use my cultural knowledge and awareness hopefully in a position allowing me to continue to travel and experience the diversity of our world! I’m also considering careers in international education, and would love to help make international study more accessible.
What was your biggest concern before going and what advice to you have for prospective study abroad students that may have the same concern as you: I was self-conscious about my language skills before I went, but when I arrived, I realized that it’s not about how good your grades were in Spanish 330 or whatever: it’s about shaking off your pride and putting yourself out there. Nearly everyone I met in every country I visited was thrilled when I tried to speak their language, and was happy to help me better my skills. The key to maximizing experiences is confidence — and having a sense of humor about your mistakes (like when I realized that I had been using the Azerbaijani word for pishik “cat” as the word kichik for “small” for weeks!).
Post-graduate plans: I’m applying to several different programs to teach English as a second language in Europe for a year upon graduation. Afterwards, I hope to pursue a graduate degree in Linguistics, ESL, Spanish, International Education, or Public Affairs — I still have a lot of narrowing down to do!
Name: Jessica Hack
Major(s): Economics, Computer Science
Study Abroad Program(s): ISEP – Technische Universität Graz
Why you decided to study abroad: I wanted to challenge myself both academically and culturally while having the opportunity to develop new skills.
The highlight of your study abroad trip: Meeting people from all over the world and exploring new cities and countries with them.
Your favorite quote from abroad: During my first Databases course, my professor walks into the seminar room stating: “I am Russian working in Austria. For those of you who speak German, I’m sorry. I know nothing. For those of you who speak English, you will have to deal with my broken Russian flavored English!” Thankfully, the class was in English as expected, but I have to say, I did learn a few Russian words along the way! J
Best piece of advice that you received while you were abroad or that you have for people going abroad: Step outside of your comfort zone. The best way to experience a different culture and to meet new people is to remove yourself from what you’re comfortable with. You will be surprised how many more wonderful things you can do!
What (kind of skills) did you learn abroad: I became more confident communicating with people regardless of the language barrier. I learned new ways to effectively communicate even if neither person speaks the same language.
What kind of issues (political, cultural, etc.) did you experience while living in a new culture (specific events, cultural practices, etc.): I didn’t experience too many political or cultural changes first-hand. The largest culture change was the timing of when stores and restaurants are open. In the US we are used to having the ability to grocery shop or go out practically 24/7 while in Graz, most stores are only open for short periods of the day or close very early with few places open on Sundays. In addition, the class structure was very different. All of my classes met once a week for one hour with very little instruction from professors so this was a shock to my learning structure! After adjusting, I was appreciative of having more time to study on my own.
How will you apply your study abroad experiences in the future: My study abroad experience helped me develop many skills, most importantly communication skills across culture. Communication is an important skill to have regardless of any situation, so I will definitely have the ability to effectively communicate with more cultures and languages!
What was your biggest concern before going and what advice to you have for prospective study abroad students that may have the same concern as you: My two biggest concerns about studying abroad – the fear of getting lost while traveling and the possibility of not being able to call home – were solved by one simple solution – a cell-phone. To anyone who is nervous about navigation, download off-line google maps on your phone or have a cell plan that has international coverage. I had the latter – T-Mobile has a $50 monthly plan (unlimited call, text, and data!) that includes unlimited international texting and data. This was a huge lifesave because I had access to a working map and directions regardless of where I was inside or outside of Austria. In addition I had the ability to text and use wi-fi calling (free) to talk with my parents and friends back home.
Post-graduate plans: I will continue my career at Anheuser-Busch in their IBS group. In addition, I will be pursuing an MBA.
Name: Wyatt Beckman
Major(s): Health Science
Study Abroad Program(s): MAP- Ghana, ISEP- Finland
Why you decided to study abroad: I was fortunate enough to do a fair bit of traveling as a kid with my family, but only within the US, so I think I learned early on the value in venturing to new places. Ultimately, I wanted to go to places where I would have opportunities to challenge the assumptions and stereotypes that are so easily formed when living in the US bubble.
The highlight of your study abroad trip: Picking one highlight from 9 months of adventures in two separate continents is asking a lot. So here are a few highlights of the highlights.
In Ghana: Hiking a mountain to swim in a waterfall, going to the beach in November, seeing an elephant, dancing at a wedding, sleeping in a treehouse in the middle of a forest, mangos and coconuts and papayas, shopping in the markets, and more dancing and laughing.
In Finland: Meeting Santa, driving a husky sleigh, feeding reindeer, all of the saunas, rolling in the snow after sauna, swimming in an ice hole after sauna, skiing across a frozen lake, coffee, watching the Northern Lights, sledding, and 1am sunsets with friends from around the world.
Your favorite quote from abroad: “This is Ghana, you have to relax” – Our coordinator, Auntie Stella.
Best piece of advice that you received while you were abroad or that you have for people going abroad: Make friends from the country you’re living in. It’s easy to become friends with other people that are studying abroad, but having native friends will definitely enrich your experience. Also, call your family back home on a regular basis. They probably miss you more than you think.
What (kind of skills) did you learn abroad: If Perspective can be a skill, I think I learned that. All that is the abroad experience put much into perspective for me; my friendships, my studies, my home, and my own agenda. Some things don’t seem as important anymore, and for others I finally understood how important they are.
What was your biggest concern before going and what advice to you have for prospective study abroad students that may have the same concern as you: I wasn’t worried about making friends while abroad, but I was worried about how my friendships back home would be impacted. The reality is that some of your friendships may weaken while your abroad, but it won’t be the friendships that really mean the most to you. Being abroad helps us learn which relationship and friendships really matter to us, because we simply don’t have the means to maintain all of the friendships we had before. Growing apart from some and closer to others is part of studying abroad, and indeed, a part of life.
Post-graduate plans: I’m currently working on my application to graduate school in Public Health.
Name: Amber Draper
Major(s): Communications: Journalism
Study Abroad Program(s): CCIS – Universidad Veritas, Costa Rica
Why you decided to study abroad:I have always been someone who’s been interested in learning about other cultures, and studying abroad is one of the best ways to do that! There is just so much I thought I could gain by being immersed in someone else’s culture, getting out of my comfort zone and seeing the world from someone else’s perspective.
The highlight of your study abroad trip: A highlight of my study abroad trip was definitely my host family. Although I was not home that often due to classes and excursions, my time abroad would still not have been the same without them. They were very patient with me in helping me learn Spanish. They would take my other housemate and I to different places around town and the food they cooked was always amazing. As corny as it sounds, it really was like a home away from home and they accepted me with open arms despite our cultural differences.
Best piece of advice that you received while you were abroad or that you have for people going abroad: The best advice I would say to anyone traveling abroad is try everything! You are going to have a lot of opportunities to do things for the first time whether it’s bungee jumping, biking through the tropics or something as simple as taking a cooking class from a native. There are a lot of things you might not have a chance to do again unless you travel abroad to the same place so take advantage of everything. It will make the experience that much more memorable.
What (kind of skills) did you learn abroad: Probably one of the most important things I learned while abroad was the Spanish language. I traveled to Costa Rica at a beginner level, but by living with my host family and taking 2 intensive courses, I improved faster than I expected. Also, I gained a strong sense of independence after finishing studying abroad. Whether it’s the language barrier, finding forms of transportation like taking the bus or just learning your way around the city, I was in plenty of circumstances where I needed to figure things out, but that impacted my experience in a positive way.
What kind of issues (political, cultural, etc.) did you experience while living in a new culture (specific events, cultural practices, etc.): Learning about the culture and country you’ll be traveling to is probably one of the top things you should make a priority before you leave. This will not only help with culture shock, but you will also come across as more knowledgeable and less ignorant about certain issues. People will also have certain views about you by being someone from the United States, but it’s just important to be open minded and realize that everywhere you go will be a learning experience.
How will you apply your study abroad experiences in the future: Having cultural awareness is something I can definitely apply in my everyday life after college. Especially as a journalist, I’ll have the opportunity to travel the world and interview people of all backgrounds and studying abroad has definitely lending a hand in preparing me for those upcoming moments.
What was your biggest concern before going and what advice to you have for prospective study abroad students that may have the same concern as you: The two things I was very worried about before traveling abroad was not knowing the native language of the country, and surprising I was also worried about everything I would be missing at school and how my relationships might change once I returned. Even if you do not know the native language of the country you are interested in traveling to, do not let that stop you. Although I went to Costa Rica without knowing any spanish, that barrier did not stop me at all from enjoying my experience. If anything, I learned so much from taking spanish classes, living with my host family and talking to locals. Sometimes it was a challenge and I was put outside my comfort zone, but that’s also makes studying abroad so rewarding.
In regards to missing things while you’re abroad, enjoy living in the moment! Studying abroad might be a once in a lifetime experience and worrying too much about things happening back home may take away from your experience abroad.
Post-graduate plans: I am majoring in journalism and so I will be applying to news stations and hopefully start my career of being a reporter and anchor. I still want to travel and will definitely make take for that after I graduate!