The University of Kentucky is lucky to have a student body so interested in studying abroad, and America is lucky to have a student body that has a growing interest in studying abroad. While many people choose to study in summer, and a good amount choose programs that are a few months long or semesters, I have not met many people that have studied abroad for a year. I know a year is a long commitment and not every student can swing it, but I have nothing but good things to say about what my year did abroad for me. Within the Education Abroad office, we have five core values that we want people to understand when they think about studying abroad. A great way to earn academic credit, professional experience, personal growth, global citizenship, and personal citizenship. These five things are truly important to look at when reflecting on ones study abroad experience. I’d like to point out two of these are reasons to look into an academic year abroad.
While I was abroad for the year, I learned how to live a more independent life. I was living on my own, making sure I went to class, doing my own chores and taking care of myself. These are all things many university students do while on UK’s campus, but the experience abroad is more intense. You are no longer a few hours away from home, but a whole ocean, and that means when something goes wrong, you have to learn how to handle it your own, especially since mom might not be able to contact you and most likely does not understand the system abroad. You become far more self sufficient and more mature. Life throws out many hurdles, and while abroad, there are added barriers of communication and systematic understanding, yet those moments are the biggest learning experiences you can have. Taking a year abroad allows you to experience holidays, traditions, and more without the normal support system you are used to. While every program helps with personal growth, an academic year abroad can really help show you what you are made of.
Becoming a citizen of the world is not easy, and it does not just happen because you’ve studied abroad. It happens because you choose to be a part of the world community and you contribute and learn from it. Every program UK offers gives you many opportunities to become a true citizen of the world, yet an academic year gives you the ability to truly immerse yourself in what it means to be a global citizen. By studying abroad for a full year, you have the time to grow an more global centric identity and learn about all the things that make everyone different, but also the same. Through my year abroad, I was able to experience cultures in 7 different countries, and was lucky to have friends from over 20 countries and cultures represented in my social group. Academic year programs offer the highest level of availability to not only be immersed in the host culture, but also to be in an university culture that is made up of many other cultures and nations.
I hope everyone gets to study, intern, teach, or research abroad at one point or another. These experiences help shape us and the human experience. I know that an academic year abroad is a big step and does not fit into everyone’s academic plan, but if you can take the time and want to take the leap, I would be amiss not to talk up the experience I had. While the summer program I completed was amazing and sparked my passion to learn abroad, the time I spent in Heidelberg Germany is by far, the most amazing and impressive year of my life.
Photos and Written by Kiel Henry
Kiel is a Peer Ambassador studying German, and he is a senior. He studied abroad through a UK Sponsored program in Munich studying Intermediate German, and through a UK Exchange- Heidelberg studying German language and Culture.