While discovering different cultures or their own heritage, gaining hands-on experience for their future careers or preparing for college life, 64 University of Wisconsin-Stout students traveled abroad to 12 locations this past summer.
Through programs coordinated by the Office of International Education, they studied in Botswana, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa, Spain and Sweden, as well as Hawaii.
Students participated in hands-on experiences in business, ecotourism, environmentalism, sustainability, design and more. They were also able to tour cities and regions, gaining perspective on how vast the world is, yet understanding the interconnectedness of people.
UW-Stout students may participate in any one of OIE’s more than 200 study abroad programs, regardless of their degree.
Entrepreneurship and innovation abroad
Seventeen students experienced the intersections of art, innovation, culture and the economy in a cross-disciplinary program in Scandinavia.
UW-Stout Assistant Professor Mary Spaeth, business department; and Lecturer Karl Koehle, design department, led a two-week course on the Principles of Entrepreneurship and Innovation – Technology and Gamification in Sweden.
Students learned innovation and entrepreneurship principles while travelling through five cities in Denmark and Sweden from Copenhagen to Stockholm.
They visited game design firms such as Massive Entertainment/Ubisoft and Starbreeze, went to the Nordic Game Conference, pitched their work to professionals, met with start-up companies and attended art classes.
They also visited medieval ruins, museums, the National Visualization Center, and enjoyed a Middle Eastern feast prepared by recent immigrant families from Syria, Somalia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. They kayaked, hiked, shopped, and saw a live musical performance at the Malmö Opera.
One student even received a remote summer internship while in Sweden. Howie Ramaley, a game design and development-art major from Maple Grove, Minn., created environmental art for Beartwigs, a start-up game studio based in Linköping.
“When working in my GDD classes, now I have some things from industry that I want to implement, such as different workflows,” Ramaley said. “Getting to intern for Beartwigs made a world of difference in what I am expecting when I graduate.”
Sustainability on the Hawaiian Islands
UW-Stout biology Professor Julie Beston led eight students in a three-week Environment Science and Sustainability course in Hawaii.
Beston thinks the program gave students a unique perspective on sustainability as they learned about the local ecosystems on the islands, including taro farming and a restoration project at Paepae O He’eia fishpond.
“The remote island setting can make environmental problems more acute and obvious, and at the same time, native Hawaiian culture has a deep reverence for the natural world that can facilitate initiatives to improve sustainability and conservation,” she said.
The group also took side trips to see an active volcano at night, swim at a waterfall, and try cliff jumping and surfing.
“Before this trip, I only thought about the academic definition of sustainability or restoration, and now my definition has definitely expanded,” said Erin O’Brien, an applied mathematics and computer science major from South Haven, Minn.
JUMPSTART: Scotland is a unique three-week, precollege experience held in Dalkeith, outside of Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh.
Twenty-three incoming first-year students earned six general education credits while experiencing Scottish culture by touring the city, the Highlands and the surrounding area.
For G Paracha, a GDD student from Eden Prairie, Minn., this was his first time traveling to Europe. “I got a lot of perspectives when it came to going to Scotland,” he said. “My big perspective shift was having to take care of myself for the first time in a long time. I was able to gain a lot of confidence in myself.”
Matthias Van Horn, a GDD student from Madison, joined JUMPSTART to prepare himself for living away from home. He enjoyed the food and making new friends, but most of all the experience of running around on the rocks at the Waters of Youth in the Highlands, he said.
“What was most difficult for me was simply how little time we had in the day. I was always trying to do more,” Van Horn said. “I fully recommend studying abroad for anyone. I was able to do more sightseeing in one week than I would have in a month by myself, on top of taking two incredibly engaging and interesting courses.”
Peyton Cunningham agreed. She enjoyed having a “snippet of college life. I definitely recommend studying abroad to other students. It was such a fantastic, eye-opening experience. I know I will for sure be doing it again,” she said.
Cunningham, a graphic design and interactive media major from Sun Prairie, has a strong Scottish heritage. She joined the program to see “part of my roots, and because I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally do my own thing and experience something for myself.”
Wildlife conservation in Botswana
Interior design senior Olivia Aschebrook traveled to Gaborone, Botswana, in southern Africa. She earned 10 credits in an eight-week program at University of Botswana, completing three courses in wildlife, ecology and conservation relating to her sustainability minor.
She chose to study abroad because she knew the experiences would stay with her for the rest of her life.
“I knew the opportunity to travel to an African country may not ever come again, and I wanted to make sure that I got the chance to learn and explore a completely different part of this beautiful world we live in,” she said.
Aschebrook learned about sub-Saharan wildlife conservation and the job opportunities that ecotourism offers people in the communities surrounding the wildlife reserves. She camped for a week in the Okavango Delta and researched animal populations there.
She also spent three days with the Leopard Conservation Research Group, tracking leopards using radio telemetry in the Khutse Game Reserve, part of the Kalahari Desert.
“The world is as big as you make it. This trip opened my eyes to a place I only ever imagined,” she said. “It gave me a whole new perspective on what life is like on the other side of the world. I was able to experience a new and welcoming culture and meet new people willing to help make this world a better place for themselves, their families and future generations.”
Aschebrook, of Black River Falls, will graduate in May 2023.
The Office of International Education was awarded an American Passport Project grant that supports 25 first-year students to obtain their U.S. passports, one of the first steps in preparing for study abroad.
During the 2021-22 academic year, 119 UW-Stout students studied abroad. This fall, 14 students are studying abroad in Australia, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Japan, Scotland and South Korea, and approximately 20 inbound students will be studying at UW-Stout on exchange.