Adam Jackson, International Studies (Russia Track)
Traveling to Russia to study was a life changing experience. Studying abroad opened my eyes to many things. There are differences in culture and practice that you cannot truly understand until immersed in a culture. And it is very motivating to travel abroad with peers who share the same interests and aspirations. While abroad, I was able to spend time with a Russian family, swim at a dacha, and explore the markets. I lived in the international dorms, and I don't think I have ever had a class or belonged to a club with more like-minded people in it. Although I would have liked to live with a host family for the language and culture immersion, the good outweighed the bad, and I will go to Russia again.
Haley Dampier, International Studies (NE Asia Track)
In June of 2011, I had the privilege of traveling to the People's Republic of China, as part of the UAA Confucius Institute's 2011 Chinese Bridge Program Series. Along with four other students, I was able to visit China for ten days with all expenses within China provided for, courtesy of Hanban, the main headquarters of the Confucius Institute.
During my stay, I visited Beijing, Shandong, and Shanghai, and was treated with an event packed itinerary that included tours of Beijing's Forbidden City, Hanban, the Bird's Nest, The Great Wall, Shandong Normal University, the Temple of Confucius, and much, much more! We were even treated to a whirlwind tour of the Hutong area in Beijing in a rickshaw! One of the most memorable experiences of my trip, however, was when we traveled to Jinan, Shandong, and were invited as guests to make dumplings with a local professor's extended family. I was awed by everyone's tremendous generosity and kindness, and left China having had the experience of a lifetime, with many new found friends and memories. I found my travel experience in China to be one of the most enlightening experiences, and I encourage all UAA students to apply for this wonderful opportunity.
Eric Peterson, International Studies (Northeast Asia)
The World Affairs Council National Conference was an incredibly interesting and thought provoking conference. Since I was hired at the Alaska World Affairs Council I have become more cognizant of international/national affairs and this conference deepened that understanding. The six issues listed as the top issues for the 2012 election were education, energy, the economy, China, Afghanistan/ Pakistan, and national security.
Participating in this conference definitely helped me in my professional and academic goals. Probably the best moment of the conference for me was when the speaker, discussing Alaska LNG exports to Japan, gave me the contact information for a company hiring Japanese speakers to work in their branches in Japan! Overall, the conference was a great way for me to learn more about international issues, and it helped me to focus on my educational goals.
Cortney Corbet, International Studies (Russia Track)
My experience in Russia has been amazing. The more time I spend in St. Petersburg, the more its hidden charms become apparent. I decided to come to Russia to improve my Russian language skills as well as to grow as a person, and I have. My language skills are so much better now; I understand subtleties that can only be understood by living in the country surrounded by the language. I have also improved personally, becoming more confident and more independent. It is an amazing moment when you realize that the fear of not being understood is unimportant, because between the two of you, the point can get across with just a little effort.
UAA Friends in Russia: There are three UAA students in St. Petersburg this fall, and I have met with my past classmates for coffee and gotten to know them even better. It's like having a safe port of the known in an unknown country. Another UAA connection is that the 2010-2011 UAA Fulbright Teaching Assistant lives in St. Petersburg. I kept in contact with her after she returned to Russia, and she has accompanied my study abroad group on several out-of-city trips. Having been at UAA for one year, she has an interesting perspective on the US and Russia, and she has been an invaluable source of Russian cultural information.
Cultural Immersion: In addition to classes and field trips, I volunteer at the Hermitage Museum and live with a host family. My experience in Russia is something I will never forget; it has enriched my life.
Funding: Prior to leaving for Russia, I received both the U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship and the UAA Kibrik & Bergelson Study in Russia Scholarship. Without these scholarships, I would not have been able to have this wonderful experience. I am so grateful to have received them.
Sarena Hackenmiller, International Studies (Canada Track)
In the fall of 2011, I attended immersion courses in a French language micro-program at the Universite de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada through the National Student Exchange Program. I took classes with students from all over the world, there to learn and improve their French, just like I was. I lived on campus, explored the city and Quebecois countryside by bike and traveled throughout the province frequently. My French improved dramatically and I learned so much more of Quebecois and Canadian culture, both by living there and taking a course called "Art and Culture of Quebec," one of my favorite courses in all of my university years. I took advantage of Canadian cultural opportunities such as folk dancing and watching hockey games, saying "eh" at the end of sentences and eating poutine (fries, gravy, cheese curds ... a Canadian delicacy). A photo of my first Canadian Halloween is shown; I dressed up as one of the "Quebecois voyageurs," men who traveled by canoe in the early years of Canada. There's also a photo from the beautiful and historical Quebec City with my French-Canadian "amie," Sarah.
Having the support and involvement of my program at UAA for an exchange to another country made my experience much more enriching! I was able to truly immerse myself in the culture without much worry, thanks to this grant.
Nicole Sola, International Studies (Europe Track)
My study abroad to Vienna was probably the best decision I made during my college career. I fell in love with Vienna. I love the people and the food and the culture. I was able to learn a lot, not only educationally but personally, as well. I was also able to experience so much, from traveling, to meeting new people, to exploring the city. I enjoyed living in a different culture and being immersed in daily life. It definitely changed my life and the way I view people and the world. I also enjoyed being taught by professors from different countries. It was interesting and it opened my eyes to different ways of thinking. Being able to travel to other countries, which I did, was completely fantastic. It was very eye opening. The only thing I would change is that I would try even harder to speak only German while there. I loved it. It was a great experience.
RosalynThompson, International Studies (Russia Track)
While cliche, study abroad changed my life ... or more specifically, my perspective and priorities. For being something I had planned on completing for language improvement, I gained something that is going to improve my quality of life and experiences far beyond the communication ability and cultural understanding that comes with knowing another language.
Upon my return, I still even surprise myself with the newly gleamed confidence I have in a vast variety of situations and in seeking out new experiences and reversely a new ability to blow off the trivial blunders that happen during a day. Furthermore, I find that I prioritize much better than I did before my study abroad: putting family and quality friends first, having realized that it really is not where you are, but who you are with. All this is not to say my language did not improve in my six months away, as it did, and I also became more focused in what I want to pursue career wise. But when it comes down to it, I am far more grateful for the self-evaluation and mini-transformation that study abroad provided, as it will keep me grounded as I pursue the next chapter in my life.
Otto Gilbert, International Studies (Europe Track) and Languages (German)
The choice to study in Heidelberg, Germany was easily one of the best decisions I have made in my life. The amount I learned about German language, culture (as well as other European cultures) and myself was staggering. The region has a rich history. It was great to learn about Roman and Nazi historica sites that are right next to each other. I think, and I hope many people will agree, the best part of study abroad is meeting new people. I made two very close friends, and we are in the process of working out visiting each other. Having good friends around the globe is a great chance to see new parts of the world, from a local's point of view. Heidelberg was an amazing city; it was a great place to study, and an even better place to be. I have no regrets about my time there, and would recommend the city to anyone who wants to see a small/medium sized German city. Start filling out the paperwork for your study abroad, and go somewhere amazing!