I was given the opportunity to interview and learn more about two awesome and lovely Education Abroad Peer Ambassadors, Natalie Yan and Becca Blair, to inform you all on some tips and bits of knowledge for studying abroad. Natalie was abroad on an exchange in Hong Kong in the 2015-2016 academic year where she focused on mathematics, while Becca was in the Prague, Czech Republic, paired with Charles University with University Studies Abroad Consortium program in spring semester 2016. Pretty big differences here, but everything overlaps some. Consortia programs are programs that typically occur in the spring and summer breaks (not always, as seen in Becca’s case) and are directed by faculty from the Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio regions generally speaking, while having classes with others from these areas. Exchanges are usually fall, spring, or full academic years where students apply to the program and foreign university, and pay UK tuition. In this situation, you are going to school like a regular student and have a lot of independence.
By studying abroad, Natalie and Becca were able to knock out a lot of what they needed for course requirements. Natalie, while in Hong Kong, got credit for her dual degrees in mathematics and economics as well as her minor in statistics. In doing so, she will be graduating this May! For Becca’s program, she knew that a lot of here courses would have to be done at UK for her major, so, she went abroad to finish her core classes. Both are extremely good options. Regardless of what you are studying, you can go abroad!
When going abroad you can learn a wide range of things both academically and with life skills. Natalie explained to me that while being in Hong Kong she really got to see the differences between the American style(s) of teaching versus Chinese and that she saw more of a passion in American teachings. Becca got to enjoy learning more about culture and art history in Eastern Europe and Czech Republic, in turn, making her feel more in touch with the area. With all this learning involved, there were still some harder times for them while abroad. Becca informed me that dealing with a different time zone was difficult for her to stay in contact with friends and family back home. With this being said, Natalie at times did feel a little homesick being gone that academic year. However, both were able to learn from these feelings and move forward in their experiences.
To wrap up my interviews with both EAPAs, I asked them each to give general advice for those pursing their program or similar programs. For Natalie’s exchange program, she would like people to know that her program was like applying for college all over again and to be proactive when dealing with these processes. Becca had to do an external petition, in which you chose a program outside UK’s education abroad program record and you want to apply to do it and get credit. This step can be overwhelming, from what she mentioned to me, but her time abroad was more than worth it. Overall, coming from myself, and these EAPAs, take time to consider what is best for you and what suits your needs, and you will be able to find something that works for you!
Lauren Bix is a 3rd year senior at the University of Kentucky. Her major is in French and francophone studies and her time abroad was in Caen, Normandy, France, spring semester 2016.