What is it really like to study abroad?

In 2017, the Innsbruck program — the largest study abroad program at UNO —enrolled its 10,000th student.

Photo courtesy of the Division of International Education

In 2017, the Innsbruck program — the largest study abroad program at UNO —enrolled its 10,000th student.

Demi Guillory, Reporter

Every summer since 1973, UNO has sent students around the world to study abroad. According to the summer program’s webpage, 17,000 students, including guest students from 75 American universities, have studied abroad with UNO’s award-winning programs. For a handful of UNO students and educators who recently shared their life-changing experiences with Driftwood, studying and teaching abroad has lived up to all of the hype.

Students Gabrielle Bonck and Annemarie Picolo took their studies to Japan for a summer. Bonck, who also studied with UNO in Austria, picked the east Asian country because no one else she knew was going there.

“I just wanted to be different and try a new place that many people do not automatically envision traveling to,” she said. She says she knew very little about Japan and did her own research before leaving, but said that ultimately, first-hand experiences with Japanese students and everyday people taught her the most.

Picolo chose Japan for a more personal reason. “My goal post-graduation is to teach English in Japan, hopefully with the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) program,” she said. “[Studying in Japan] seemed like a smart, exciting opportunity to have before dedicating two or more years of my life to living there.”

Dylana Evans and Carolyn Saurez decided on the France program. For Evans, the decision was based on recommendations from friends who’d experienced the same program. Evans, who had not been out of the county before, knew the French program was the right fit for her because it was based in Montpellier, a small city in the south of France. “[It] allowed for a full immersive experience,” she said.

Saurez, who was taking French classes at the time, joined the program because she wanted to experience life in a country she’d “always wished” to visit.

Other students like Harihar Ojha and Bond Ruggles chose to study in Austria with the Innsbruck program. Ojha is an international student from Nepal who said studying here at UNO “is already a study abroad program for me.” He was drawn to Innsbruck because of the variety of classes offered and the time available to travel around Europe on the weekends.

Ruggles agreed and credits the time to travel as one of his deciding factors as well. “Innsbruck is, quite literally, dead smack in the middle of Europe, making travel to other countries wide-open,” he said. He also chose Innsbruck primarily because the program provided the credits he needed to fulfill the rest of his degree requirements. Like Evans, Ruggles had never traveled outside the U.S., and his study abroad experience in Austria was his first international trip.

It isn’t just students who benefit from the study abroad programs. Professor of English Dr. Anne Boyd Rioux, once an exchange student in Germany for a year, has taught on two of the programs. “I taught on the Cork, Ireland program in 2015, and the Innsbruck program in 2017,” she said. This summer, she will be teaching in France.

History Professor Marc Landry has many personal connections to Austria. He has taught on the Innsbruck program for the last few years and was also a guest student with UNO in Innsbruck during his time at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

“That year-long experience in Innsbruck was the most formative of my college experience, if not my young life,” he said. “Living in another culture really caused me to look at myself and my own culture with new eyes.”

Dr. Clarence Mark Phillips is also a professor of history and philosophy. Phillips has taught on all of the study abroad programs UNO has to offer since 2000. This summer, he’ll be in Ireland and then back to Innsbruck in 2020.