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UKIC / Education Abroad Exchanges / Discovering the world through UK Education Abroad graduates

Discovering the world through UK Education Abroad graduates

Monday, January 25, 2021 | By Facundo Luque, Chelsea Woolums

UK Education Abroad & Exchanges (UK EA) offers a variety of experiences around the world to meet individual students' unique academic and personal needs. Education abroad can be most simply defined as an opportunity to earn academic credit in an international setting. However, many students have found more than that: personal growth, challenges, open-mindedness , a sense of community, and a world of possibilities.

Clarissa Fisher, Breauna Oldhamare and Melanie Berexa are three UK graduates who had very different, but equally meaningful experiences studying abroad: Fisher in Spain, Oldhamare in South Korea, and Berexa in both to Spain and Chile.

“I wanted to immerse myself in the language to better my speaking skills,” Fisher said. “I have always been interested in Spanish culture and have a passion for traveling. These interests drew me to the UK Education Abroad office where I learned about all the wonderful opportunities to have an international component added to my degree.”

Though Oldhamare had previously studied abroad in South Korea during high school, she knew she wanted to pursue a second program there while in college. “I knew that when I went to UK I was going to study abroad again. So immediately when I entered UK, I began looking up exchange programs. When I went into my freshman year, I got everything settled and then I traveled the following year.”

While also in high school, Berexa was inspired to study abroad by one of her Spanish teachers. “I met this teacher who had lived everywhere: she had lived in South America, Spain and all over the world,” Berexa said. “She taught me was that learning a language wasn't just about studying grammar. It was about learning a whole another world. I was really impressed. So, I decided that I wanted to do that one day”.

Many students say that study abroad positively and unequivocally influenced their post-graduate career paths.  

Fisher recognized how unique the opportunity to study abroad was. “I allowed myself to let my walls down and become comfortable speaking Spanish to everyone, despite making mistakes along the way,” she said. “I developed my confidence and communication skills which has benefited me in personal relationships and internships/jobs that followed after.”

While living in South Korea, Oldhamare was influenced to define her capstone project topic. “I had a lot of great teachers and I was able to learn about Korean history and politics sociology,” Oldhamare said. “That really impacted in my research. They inspired me to research Korean history, which I never thought I would do that.”

When Berexa came back to her first trip to Spain, she applied to different internships and found her experience abroad was very helpful in setting her apart from other applicants. “I heard feedback from my interviews and they said that knowing someone who has lived abroad for a whole year really shows that person can adapt to their environment.”

Studying abroad provides the opportunity to learn important lessons, like adaptability, which is a unique part of the overall experience.

“One of the most interesting things I learned was that no matter the country, the culture, the language, we all generally desire the same things - health, happiness, and love - and that food always brings people together, no matter the differences involved. In these times of isolation, I like to remember that we are all fighting the same fight, despite the disunity in the world,” Fisher stated.

Studying abroad isn’t necessarily easy and it comes with unique challenges. Yet, Oldhamare saw the significant benefits in her personal growth. “I had to really navigate everything,” she said. “I didn't have really that much hope. But this experience really helped my confidence and trusting in myself and my instincts,” Oldhamare added. “I learned how to face situations head-on,” she added. “I faced that challenge and I went through with it. Despite my fears and what I thought would happen, things ended up turning out better than I could have imagined.”

Berexa explained how important her experience was in helping her leave her comfort zone. “In the beginning it's so uncomfortable and it's strange,” Berexa said. “You feel all these different emotions, but then you come out of that little feeling of discomfort. You learn so much about yourself. You learn things that you didn't even know that you were capable of doing. You learn a lot about being independent and having to rely on yourself to figure things out. The best thing is that you learn about the world”.

The three graduates said they recommend every UK student to embark on an education abroad experience. All of them agree that this kind of experience opens your eyes to fresh perspectives, differing ways of living and new professional opportunities.

“From the start, middle, and end, UK prepared me very well for my journey,” Fisher said. “When I first started researching where I wanted to study, the office responded to my inquiries quickly and helped me develop a plan to incorporate the classes I needed for my degree into my desired program. UK staff helped me find scholarships that allowed me to have an affordable experience.

The financial aspect might be intimidating, but shouldn’t deter students from applying for a program, according to Fisher. “UK Education Abroad programs are fulfilling, affordable, and 

beneficial to personal growth,” Fisher said.

Oldhamare said the biggest resource for her at the Education Abroad office was her study abroad advisor. “He was just always available to meet me and help me,” Oldhamare

said. “At that time, I almost felt like it was going to be impossible to do, but I still wanted to try. My academic advisor helped me every step along the way.”

“I think UK was awesome,” Berexa said about her administrative process. “They give you all the resources, tools and options that you need to be able to study abroad. For me, there was never any problems with transferring my credits and classes. Everything was super easy and seamless”.

UK Education Abroad & Exchanges (UK EA) offers a variety of experiences around the world to meet individual students' unique academic and personal needs. As our world continues to become increasingly interconnected, employers seek graduates who have cross-cultural competence, real-world application and transferable skills. UK is ready to help students prepare for the globally competitive world that awaits for them after graduation.

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