By Amy Blakely
Adena Lane of Madison, Tennessee, says the semester she spent studying in Puebla, Mexico, gave her a taste of “the mystery and wonder of the beautiful diversity in our world.”
Scott Wofford, a senior in public relations from Brentwood, Tennessee, found that learning Spanish while living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was “much easier and way more fun that taking classes at school.”
And Sarah Beth Ramsey from Cleveland, Tennessee, who studied in New Zealand in 2008, also found time to rock climb, kayak, skydive, hike, camp, and bungee jump.
For these and hundreds of other UT Knoxville students, study abroad is an exciting—often life-changing—experience.
Expanding study abroad is an important component of Ready for the World, the campus’s international and intercultural initiative. It also advances several of the strategic priorities outlined by Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek of UT Knoxville. Among them are enhancing the education experience, diversity, and globalization.
Noah Rost, a programs abroad coordinator in UTK’s Center for International Education office, says studying abroad is “a transformative experience” for students. “It broadens their worldview, directly exposes them to different countries and cultures, and helps them become more independent and self-reliant in the process.
“Studying abroad is also a gem on a student’s curriculum vitae,” Rost says. “It will make them more competitive for elite graduate and professional programs and help them secure quality employment upon graduation since the majority of employers are seeking applicants who can communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries.”
UT Knoxville offers programs in 54 countries on 6 continents, ranging in length from 3 weeks to an entire academic year.
The Center for International Education reports that 805 students studied abroad last year. That’s up 4.5 percent from the previous year and 39 percent more than in academic year 2004–05.
The campus’s goal is to have 20 percent of its students studying abroad by 2015. The 805 who studied abroad last year represent about 3 percent of UT Knoxville’s students—and even that puts the campus ahead of the national average of 2 percent, as well as in the top half of SEC institutions.
UT Knoxville students pay a $10 annual fee—proposed by the Student Government Association and approved by the Board of Trustees in June 2008—that helps fund $300,000 in study-abroad scholarships per year. Nearly 400 students have received the scholarships since spring 2009.For Wofford, Ramsey, and Lane, study abroad was an experience they’ll never forget.
“My Spanish improved more than in my entire formal Spanish education, on and off since first grade,” Wofford says. “I also gained direction about my career goals and came to appreciate the things I take for granted at home.”
Ramsey, a senior in English, said she found time during her study-abroad experience in New Zealand to travel and explore.
“My friends and I took road trips almost every weekend or else we were doing something else incredibly fun. One of the greatest experiences was driving about twelve hours to the top of the South Island to hike the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which is one of the ‘Great Walks’ of New Zealand. We hiked and camped for three days and thirty-two miles across golden beaches and up mountains with spectacular views.
“I have never seen a place as beautiful as New Zealand, and it became literally a second home to me.”
Lane, a senior in Honors English and Spanish, thinks about what she would have missed if she hadn’t gone abroad.
“I would have never had the opportunity to see the expanse of the mountains of Central Mexico, twirl on a club floor with a live salsa band blasting music, or tasted a real Mexican meal handmade by a friend’s mother.”
She says the experience taught her about the world—and about herself. “It was the most worthwhile contribution to my undergraduate education and my future.”
In New Zealand, Ramsey not only experienced a new country but also met people from many nations. She lived in a student apartment with locals, as well as neighbors from Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, and Bulgaria.
“Now I have friends from all over the world,” she says.
Learn more at utabroad.org.