SU faculty and staff share their international experiences and advice on pursuing experiences abroad

Kiyana Higa

Kiyana studied abroad in Florence, Italy

"Living abroad in a totally new place was the scariest and best thing I did for myself. It was the first time I felt completely independent and got to explore parts of myself that I didn't know existed completely free from things at home that could have or have influenced me otherwise. I learned to trust myself more and how to not only push outside of my boundaries but also how to build them, all while exploring and eating my way through one of the most beautiful places in the world. Absolutely do it, your world will open up. But jump in all the way: speak the language even when you make mistakes, talk to the locals, eat ALL the food, listen to the music, and say yes to all the opportunities that come up."

Kiyana Higa Career Engagement Specialist, Career Engagement Office
Felipe Murtinho
Felipe Murtinho, International Studies, studied abroad in Colombia and the U.S.

"It allowed me to better understand myself, my family, and my country. Don't be afraid of being alone, not fully understand the language or local culture... after a few weeks it is completely worth it!"

Lauren Albano
Lauren Albano, International Student Center, studied abroad in Uppsala, Sweden.

"I created unique bonds with those I traveled with and gained a new perspective on my career path. You will truly expand your view of the world and yourself, and grow in immeasurable ways."

Joyce Allen
Joyce Allen, Office of the Registrar, studied abroad in Austria

"I became more equity minded and less "US is better" -centric in my thinking, and that has been a huge factor in my social justice efforts. Be curious about why things are different where you travel, not just about what is different."

Richard LeBlanc
Richard LeBlanc, Computer Science, taught in Barcelona, Spain

"Teaching and living abroad made me much more curious about other cultures. Find a way to make studying or living abroad work -- the experience will make a difference in your life!"

Maria Reyes
Maria Reyes, University Core, studied abroad in Hokkaido, Japan

"After studying/living abroad for 9 years and returning to my home country, I developed a deep respect for international expatriates and immigrants. Coming into a context is not is not native to your own, be it in language or culture, is no easy feat! Working in higher ed, it has made an impact in regards to how to make our services accesible to our wonderful international community. Burn that mental expectations lists you are keeping in your head on what your experience will be like. Just BE."

Kirsti Ruud
Kirsti Ruud, Education Abroad Office, studied abroad in Madagascar

"I studied abroad in Madagascar through the School for International Training (SIT), focusing on urbanization and rural development. Having experienced studying, volunteering and traveling abroad in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, I joined the Education Abroad Office staff with a shared value and belief in the transformative power of international education and its central role in the university’s mission to empower leaders for a just and humane world."

Woman with her hands up at Cape Point South Africa sign

Gina studied abroad in Siena, Italy

As a first-generation student and Pell Grant recipient, my education abroad to Siena, Italy was my first time leaving the U.S. and boarding a plane. I studied and socialized with classmates from Greece, Syria, Tunisia, Japan, Hungary and, of course, Italy. This opportunity helped me understand my identity as an American citizen and to better understand myself. I hope that students curious about studying abroad come and talk with us before concluding they cannot take advantage of this opportunity.

Gina Lopardo Director, Education Abroad Office
Diana Luna
Diana Luna, Spanish Department, studied in the U.S., France, and Portugal.

"Being multilingual is a long lasting gift that I treasure everyday. Travel allowed me to learn, understand and appreciate the diversity in cultures, its history, and celebrate our differences and similarities."

Corinne Pann
Corinne Pann, Alumni Engagement, studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

"I learned so much about being a citizen of the world and respecting other cultures. And I made one of my very best friends for life. Don't miss the chance to study abroad! Immersing yourself in a new culture is invaluable for your learning, perspective and growth."

Lyn Gualtieri
Lyn Gualtieri, Environmental Science, studied abroad in Iceland

"Don't be shy about practicing language skills. I was hesitant about speaking other languages and I believe that held me back from some experiences. It opened my eyes to different cultures, language and values than my own."

Jen Sorensen
Jen Sorensen, Chemistry Department, lived in Budapest, Hungary

"As a result of living abroad and traveling on my own I am a confident traveler, and I make an effort to learn language basics before visiting another country. Take the opportunity to travel beyond your home base while you are abroad!"

Mayra Santoyo

Mayra studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain

"When I studied abroad, coming from a First/Second Generation Latino household this was something my family did not comprehend. The experience not only impacted the way I think and view the world, it also impacted my family and siblings. Seeing me do this allows them to dream even bigger for their future. I also built positive working habits, living in a country like Spain, their way of life is different and living there for 6 months allowed me to adapt some of those practices even today in my daily personal and professional life. Soak in every moment of it, live it to the fullest and challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that not many get, enjoy it and emerge yourself in the culture of wherever you are."

Mayra Santoyo Student Persistence Specialist, Student Persistence
De'Andre Jones
De'Andre Jones, Alumni Engagement, studied abroad in the U.K. and France.

"Because of studying abroad I have a heightened sense of awareness regarding the privilege I have in my day-to-day life. I encourage you to make the most of your experience! For many, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so take it all in and immerse yourself in the culture and take the time to learn from the locals.

Alia Pappas
Alia Pappas, Lemieux Library, studied abroad in Florence, Italy

"Living and studying abroad gave me access to other cultures' viewpoints on life, as well as an immersive educational experience that I would not have gotten otherwise. Don't forget to update your passport at least six months before your departure date! Also, do as much exploring as you possibly can! Some of my best memories are from places I simply (and safely!) wandered to."

Sharon Leary, Career Engagement Office, studied abroad in Rome, Italy

"I learned how to immerse myself in another culture, and started my love affair with travel. Live like a local as much as possible. When we first arrived, one of our professors told us "don't eat in the piazza," meaning find the hidden gems on the side streets rather than eating in the obvious, touristy spots. This is advice I still heed today anywhere I travel!"

Emma Landsman
Emma Landsman, Sundborg Ctr for Community Engagement, interned in Haifa, Israel

"My living abroad experience felt like a once in a lifetime experience! I enjoyed meeting new people, trying new foods, learning how to use public transportation in a different country, living with random roommates, making friends with locals, and enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean Sea."

Sonia Barrios Tinoco
Sonia Barrios Tinoco, Spanish Dept, studied abroad in the US, Brazil, and Sweden

"Before I ever studied abroad, I wanted to explore the world, learn languages, live in another culture and get to know and share with their people. The ironic thing is that while I certainly was able to do all of that and go beyond my expectations, what left a bigger impression on me is how much I got to know myself and how much I grew as a person as a result of my interactions with people from different cultures. After those experiences I was able to see and understand life through a different, more ample lens, that constantly challenges me to consider multiple points of view and voices in search for the common good. I recommend studying or working abroad! It will be exciting, scary, overwhelming, enriching, amusing... it will be wonderful!"

LesLee Clauson Eicher
LesLee Clauson Eicher, Graduate Admissions, studied abroad in Munich, Germany

"I had no idea what I was missing (or that I was missing anything) until I studied outside the US and learned to look at the world with different eyes. My years in Germany and in Austria influenced my career, my friendships, the choices I make to this day, and the way I live. Study or work abroad, even if you think you can't! Even the hard parts will turn out to be wonderful. It will change the way you think, the way you see the world, and the way you interact with others. Traveling, working, studying, and living abroad is life-changing!

Barcelona, Spain

Jazz studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain

"My experience showed me how similar life can be around the world. And as a common thread, that similarity between each other can lead to experiencing our differences and learning from them. I also gained the confidence of speaking another language that I had not previously had before. Just go for it! That can apply to actually going abroad or the myriad of opportunities and experiences that will present themselves to you once you're abroad."

Jazz Scott Communication Representative, Office of the Registrar
John Carter
John Carter, Mathematics, worked abroad in Chile, Spain, and Norway

"Living abroad gave me more confident, independence, and the desire to try new things. Focus on the cultural experience, not just the studies. LIVE in the country. Get off campus. Try restaurants/bars/venues at random."

Edwin Weihe
Edwin Weihe, English Department, worked abroad in Europe

"After my first experience abroad at age 20, I traveled or lived abroad most years since. I've worked in The Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Germany. Just study or work abroad as earlier as possible because it will shape your plans thereafter."

Jessica Allison
Jessica Allison, CSE Advising, studied abroad in England, Italy, and Germany.

"Met my spouse (and now have a big extended British family across the pond) and have made friends from almost every continent (except Antarctica) that broaden my prospective everyday. Keep an open mind when exploring the many different places and opportunities and know there is not just "one time" in your life when you can study or work abroad."

Natasha Malyuk
Natasha Malyuk, Premajor Studies, studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

"I learned how to be more independent and self-sufficient. My love for travel only grew from studying abroad and I learned how to speak some Czech. Now when I advise students, I encourage any kind of education or working abroad, because it will add to your experience in and out of the classroom.  Be prepared to be pushed outside your comfort zone and feel uncomfortable with being abroad, but know that you will learn to adapt with an open mind and heart."

Dario Ogaz
Dario Ogaz, Education Abroad Office, studied abroad in Sydney, Australia

"As is the case for many students, studying abroad was the first opportunity I had to travel and live abroad. Studying in Sydney, Australia was the start of my passion for international education because of the opportunity it gave me to better understand myself and to continue building the resilience to complete my education. This still inspires me today to help create opportunities for students to have similar experiences that challenge and inspire them to continue learning about themselves and the world around them."

Jenn Chan
Jenn Chan, Education Abroad Office, worked abroad in Fukuoka, Japan

"As an undergraduate, I assumed that I would not be able to study abroad, so I didn’t even try to see what my possibilities were. However, I did have the opportunity to work abroad in Japan for five years teaching English with the JET Program. As a third-culture-kid, I found living, learning and working abroad helped me define myself and allowed me to explore my identity as a global citizen. Studying and working abroad is an amazing opportunity for anyone to learn more about themselves in a global context."

Mountains in Puebla, Mexico

Laura studied abroad in Puebla, Mexico

I made lifelong friends, dramatically increased my Spanish proficiency in a relatively short amount of time, and saw the world with new eyes. In the moment, I think I would have said it was the best time of my life socially and mental health wise. Looking back now, I realize that I so appreciate the curiosity that it gave me and the resilience. It's pretty incredible when I think about it, even 20+ years later. Studying or working abroad is a great chance to step outside of your comfort zone and learn from the wisdom of the world. I hope you will not pass up the opportunity to participate in experiences like this when you can because they add so much value to your personal and professional character.

Laura Hauck-Vixie Assistant Director of Academic Advising, College of Arts and Sciences
Kendrick Kronthal
Kendrick Kronthal, Graduate Admissions, studies abroad in Wales

"It brought some challenges in a fun way. It taught me the importance of public transportation. Definitely take trips with people you meet!"

Bizzy Stephenson
Bizzy Stephenson, Housing Res Life, studied abroad in Ecuador, UK, France, Spain

"I gained a more global perspective, unlearning racist and xenophobic stereotypes and ignorances. i learned about justice issues in Ecuador and have a more interconnected understanding of global power structures and solidarity between the US struggles and some Latin American struggles. Don't drag your feet! Do it as early as possible so it works with your course plan."

Michelle Kim
Michelle Kim, Office of Multicultural Affairs, worked in Seoul, South Korea

"Living abroad allowed me to reconnect and deepen my connection to my home country and family. Working abroad allowed me to build relationships with diverse people I would have never met otherwise and experience a very different work/life culture. Approach the experience with humility and curiosity - be open to learning from others, following instead of leading, and seeing the world from a different point of view."

Matthew Kunkel
Matthew Kunkel, Campus Ministry, studied abroad in Italy, Mexico, and Colombia

"I cannot see my own culture in a vacuum; it is part of the human story, but only a part. The rights of others to think, respond, believe, speak in a way that was new to me opened my world to see my reality as a social construct with all its joys and complexities. Studying the language of the host country is a crucial way to understand the culture and the thought processes of the people one will encounter in country. People think differently and in unexpected ways; be prepared to be surprised!"

London, UK

Paige studied abroad in London and Birmingham, England

"Studying abroad is one of the greatest experiences I have had. I was able to spend a semester abroad during my undergraduate degree and ultimately decided to return to England to pursue my Master's degree. After studying abroad I had a new sense of independence and confidence that helps me to this day. I attribute my love of traveling to that initial experience I was able to have in college and now I feel I have a more global perspective. I also met amazing people and have formed life long friendships with those I met while abroad, and now I have an excuse to always go back and visit! Say yes! Say yes to new experiences even if they seem new or scary. It will open up a world of possibilities. Step outside your comfort zone because time will fly so fast when you are abroad and you should

Paige Adler Undergraduate Program Assistant, College of Nursing
Anne Colpitts
Anne Colpitts, Albers Advising, studied abroad in Spain, Guatemala, Mexico, JP

"Living and studying abroad impacted me in so many ways. I learned there are many different ways of being in the world, and I came to see my home culture from a new perspective. I gained practical experience that added depth and nuance to knowledge that was purely theoretical before. I still cook tortilla española, yakisoba, and Guatemalan breakfasts that remind me of my study abroad experiences, and the Spanish I speak has multiple influences. If you're interested in studying abroad, explore ways to make it work for you. Two of my education abroad experiences were fully funded by scholarships, and I used my university's financial aid when I was abroad for 2 semesters. If you don't have much flexibility in your home or work schedule, maybe a short-term program would work. It's worth looking at all your options."

Zachary Wood
Zachary Wood, Institute of Public Service, studied abroad in Germany

"My path to studying abroad is hilariously backwards. When I was in school, I found numerous weak excuses for why I couldn't study abroad. I always regretted this. So when I later became a professor, I wanted to make up for this regret, and decided to take students abroad on short-term experiences. These experiences have changed the way I understand my role as a professor, my studies, and even my approach to engaging with communities. Students have shared similar sentiments, and each time I now travel, I take a little bit of brilliance from every one of my former travel companions and the wonderful people we have met along the way. Enter each day with the posture of challenging the taken-for-granted assumptions you have absorbed about how the world works."

Julie Hurst
Julie Hurst, Sundborg Ctr for Community Engagement, worked abroad onboard ships

"As a child, my parents demonstrated and instilled in me the importance of exposure--arts, culture, places, food--so going abroad was in many ways an extension of those lessons.  My experiences abroad have changed my outlook on how I locate myself in the world, and I continue to feel a connection to the people and places I've visited and the experiences I've had. I've also learned a lot about myself in the process! Do your research, and speak with advisors and students who have gone abroad to learn ways to manage your needs (social, emotional, etc.)."

Hilary Lichterman
Hilary Lichterman, Housing & Res Life, interned in Wellington, New Zealand

"I had the fortune of serving as a summer (for U.S.)/winter (in New Zealand) intern, sponsored by the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I). The experience was 7-weeks and was a magical way to learn about tertiary education in a different country. On a personal level, this was the first and only time I have traveled outside the U.S. As a young person (then - haha!), this had a profound influence on my ability to take agency and push beyond my comfort zone. My hosts were incredibly gracious and exposed me to experiences well being the campus. To this day, I typically have positive dreams about my time in New Zealand - now 19 years ago! I think it is useful to consider there are different options to fund an abroad experience. Often, the financial costs of living, studying, or working abroad may seem daunting, but there are various possibilities and many excellent resources here at SU to help navigate details."

Casey Riedeman

Casey studied abroad in Spain, Italy, & Japan

"Global citizenship is not a destination, it is a journey, and one of my great passions. I have learned so much every time I have traveled abroad. Every time I go somewhere new, I learn something new. Each of those things impacts the way in which I view the world around me. It is natural for us, as humans, to make assumptions based on our lived experiences. When you are studying or working abroad though, if you find yourself beginning to make an assumption, take a step back and ask yourself what is informing that assumption. Is it the cultural context you’re bringing with you to your new environment? If so, how do you challenge that within yourself and seek to understand the new culture you’re living in?"

Casey Riedeman Area Coordinator, Housing & Residence Life