UP without borders: Students share their study abroad experiences

By Emily Davis | October 13, 2018 6:42pm

Students from the Salzburg program watch the sunset at the top of Gaisberg mountain in Austria.

Photo submitted by junior theater major Clare Kessi. 

Wandering down cobblestone streets, laughing all the way home at 3 a.m. and studying in places that are older than anywhere you’ve been before. These are some of the experiences UP students have when they study abroad. 

With applications for spring, summer, fall and year-long programs closing on Monday Oct. 15, students may be wondering what studying abroad actually encompasses or which programs to apply for. Here are first hand accounts from UP students about their time abroad:

Rome, Italy

Senior organizational communication major Taylor Agelson studied abroad in Rome, Italy during the spring semester of her junior year. During the program, students live in dorm-style apartments with other students from American universities and take classes at John Cabot University. 

The Beacon: What was living in Rome like?

Agelson: It’s in such a good location. On one side of the river you have the Pantheon, the Trevi, all the classics. And then right across the river is where I lived. So it was a 10 minute walk into the central part of the city. The Vatican is on the same side of the river and it’s a 15 minute walk. The neighborhood is nice because it’s a little bit quieter. It’s not quite as crazy but there’s a ton of restaurants and cafes. 

The Beacon: As a smaller program, what influenced you to choose Rome?

Senior organizational communication major Taylor Agelson poses in front of the Vatican in Rome, Italy, where she studied abroad her junior year.

Photo submitted by Agelson.

Agelson: It’s recommended for certain majors focusing on international relations, but when I was first looking at the program it was junior-recommended, though you don’t have to be a junior to go on it. I wasn’t ready to go sophomore year. I also always wanted to go to Italy.

The Beacon: How do classes differ from the UP schedule?

Agelson: We only had classes Monday through Thursday, no class on Wednesday.  I think they just assumed people would skip. So the school I went to is an American school in Italy. So, it’s also a four-year university, and there’s Americans who go there for four years, and people from all over Europe go for four years. And then there are 300 study abroad students, but only two of us were from UP. All the professors, except my Italian professor were from America, but now live in Rome. 

The Beacon: Did you have to do language preparation before going?

Agelson: You don’t have to. Since it’s an American school, all your classes are in English. UP doesn’t require you to because they don’t have Italian, but I didn’t want to go to a country and be ignorant, so I took it, which I recommend.

The Beacon: What are some cultural differences between UP and Rome?

Agelson: The pace is different, much slower. Even in Rome, which is a big city. People move a lot slower. Restaurants will close for two hours in the afternoon. There are just different things, but I wouldn’t say I had complete culture shock.

The Beacon: How do you think you’ve changed?

Agelson: I’m a lot better with change and rolling with no plan. It’s hard to have a plan when you’re traveling with other people and in countries that you don’t know because you’re going to get lost and you’re going to have to be okay with it. 

London, UK - Semester and Quito, Ecuador - Summer

Junior Mary Sullivan, a business marketing major and Spanish minor, studied in London for a semester and Quito, Ecuador during the summer. For the London semester program, students live in homestays with British families and commute to classes in central London via the Tube. In the Quito summer program, students live in homestays and take 6 credits in either the social work or language immersion track. 

Junior Mary Sullivan and junior Bailey Morisak smile at the Equator in Ecuador. 

Photo submitted by Sullivan. 

The Beacon: Why did you choose Quito?

Sullivan: When I came to UP, I was between the Granada and London programs, and I realized that Granada wouldn’t fit in my schedule. I found a way to make London and Quito work so I could get the semester abroad and still have a Spanish focus, because I was really intent on having a Spanish focus and having a semester abroad. 

The Beacon: What was your favorite part of Ecuador? 

I got to go all around Ecuador, and I got to go to the Galapagos which was really cool. That was like one of my biggest highlights. I would not have had the chance to go there. It was so crazy that I had the opportunity. In the Quito program they schedule all your weekends for you, so I only had one weekend to travel and my friend and I just had the opportunity. We said let’s just go, like we’re never going to have this opportunity again, and we were the only students in the program that were able to go. 

The Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos was probably my favorite. We got to swim with tortoises, and there was one that had a missing fin so he got super close to us. And that was just insane that they were so domesticated that they’ll just swim next to you. 

The Beacon: How does applying to multiple programs throughout your time at UP work?

Sullivan: You can study abroad up to as many times as you want. With the summer programs you can keep going as many times as you want. It depends because people go on the summer programs after they graduate because they need to have two credits to study abroad. It’s totally possible to study abroad multiple times. 

Salzburg, Austria - Year

The Salzburg program is the only year-long program that UP offers and has been in place since 1964. Junior theater major Clare Kessi and junior organizational communication major Maddy Smith spent their sophomore year in Salzburg traveling, studying and exploring Austria.

Students from the Salzburg program dress in lederhosen and dirndl for a group photo.

Photo submitted by Kessi.

The Beacon: How many countries did you travel to?

Kessi: I went to 22 countries. Budapest is my favorite, it’s a really lively and vibrant city. It kind of reminded me of Portland in a way — quirky and didn’t take itself super seriously. 

Smith: I visited 20 countries. My favorite was Croatia and also the Czech Republic. They were both just very unique. Whenever I went to English-speaking countries it didn’t feel as foreign, and being able to travel to a country where I was completely outside my comfort zone was really cool.

The Beacon: What affected your decision in choosing Salzburg?

Kessi: I came to UP as an organizational communication major, and I came to UP to go to Salzburg. And then my freshman year I changed my major to theatre. Most of your studies are done by being in productions and doing internships in Portland and to take a year off from that was really difficult, especially being there and not having that outlet. But second semester I adjusted and got involved with a theatre group in Salzburg. 

Smith: It’s really flexible for all majors, even nursing and engineering. It’s really cool for people who have heavier course loads, but I’m done with all my core requirements now. 

The Beacon: How do you think you’ve changed from your studies abroad?

Kessi: I feel like I don’t know the person I was before I went to Salzburg. Because I just feel older, more capable doing whatever I want to do. It’s also a really good way to build your interpersonal skills because living with the same people for that amount of time can really grate on some people. Conflicts arise so it helps you to develop like how do you live in this weird, little petri dish. 

Smith: I feel like I gained a lot of confidence over the past year. [Traveling] made me realize how big the world is and how I can do anything that I want to do. I also came to appreciate people who were different than me a lot more because my friends that I made freshman year were pretty similar to me, but you get so deep with people and you just really get to know each other. To feel so known by so many people and to trust them with printing out the train tickets to get you where you need to go, just where it seems like little stuff, it all builds off of each other.

Granada, Spain

Junior Brittany D’Souza, a biology and Spanish major, studied in Granada, Spain during her sophomore year. Students in the Granda program fully immerse themselves in the Spanish language and culture by living with Spanish families in a homestay. The program is geared towards students who have taken 300 and 400-level Spanish courses.  

Junior biology and Spanish major Brittany D'Souza smiles in front of Alhambra, a famous palace in Granda, Spain.

Photo submitted by D'Souza. 

The Beacon: How did being a biology major affect your decision?

D’Souza: I think it’s really hard (being a biology major) because most study abroad programs don’t have science options. There isn’t a specific study abroad program for biology, but (you have to make) the commitment to try and make it work. You can make it work although it seems really difficult. Taking a semester off of science is really scary, but it’s really possible. 

The Beacon: How was Granada different from life at UP?

D’Souza: Before you go you sign a Spanish-only contract, so it is a complete immersion. Also getting there is super different because the times for meals are really different, and if you’re not eating until 2 o’clock and the only thing you have for breakfast is toast without any snacks — that really gets to you. The nightlife and how late people stay up is crazy. People didn’t start partying until 1 o’clock, and it didn’t stop until 5 a.m. 

The Beacon: How have you changed from your time abroad?

D’Souza: Going abroad gives you a chance to test who you are as a person and who you want to be because you’re faced with lots of different challenges that you didn’t expect. You’re traveling for the first time without your mom to tell you where to go. It’s really challenging and you really see the best and worst of other people as well as yourself and so it makes you more sure of who you are. 

Galway, Ireland

Junior Karlie Chilcott is a nursing major who studied abroad in Galway during her sophomore year. This semester-long program is only offered in the spring, and students live in university-owned flats with other UP students, Irish students and students from Willamette University. 

Junior nursing major Karlie Chilcott is all smiles at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, which is about an hour and a half drive south of Galway.

Photo submitted by Chilcott. 

The Beacon: What was living in Galway like?

Chilcott: We stayed with a host family for a weekend, one of our first weekends there. We stayed with an Irish-speaking family in the countryside, and it was my first introduction to Ireland. It was this tiny little town, and there were maybe 50 people who lived there and everybody knew our host dad. We went to school with a lot of the kids from Galway and we were talking with someone we met and he was also from the same town. So we said you must know our host dad and he said he was his neighbor! It was just super small and everybody knows everybody.

The Beacon: How did you manage being a nursing major while studying abroad?

Chilcott: I came in with extra credit which made it easier to travel abroad. But it was really challenging to study abroad because you had to squish everything first, and I saved fine arts and history for abroad. 

The Beacon: Where did you go and what did you notice about being abroad?

Chilcott: Amsterdam was my favorite because the people were more friendly than any other city I visited.  It was really easy to get around. I feel like you see a lot of European cities and you think they’re cool, but you would never live there. But Amsterdam was a place I could see myself moving to.

The Beacon: How have you changed from your time abroad?

Chilcott: I really matured when I went abroad. I used to be pretty timid, and I still am in a way, but being stranded on this island and the only eight people you know in this entire country are the people that came with you — and I didn’t really know them at the time either — it really forces you to come out of your shell and it forces you to become friends with people because you really know no one.

London, UK - Summer

Junior Katie Buchanan, a marketing and psychology double major, completed the six-week summer program in London in 2017. This program is designed for nursing and business majors, where students live in flats in central London.

The Beacon: Why did you choose London?

Buchanan: I’ve always loved doing summer school, so it was awesome to get ahead. I’m actually on track to still graduate early because of the summer program, and I got a lot of my junior credits out when I came back. Plus, London is such a cool city, and I didn’t want to miss out on anything going on around here, so I still got to explore and travel and I didn’t have to miss any semesters here.

The Beacon: What was your summer school schedule?

Buchanan: We took six credits, which is pretty standard for summer courses. We had two hours of classes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We had Wednesdays off, where we’d go on excursions with our group. Weekends were to our disposal which was the best part. It wasn’t like we were studying the whole time. I felt like I had a good grasp of it, but I was still able to do so much. 

The Beacon: Where did you travel?

Buchanan: We had one four-day weekend where we did most of our traveling. We had five other friends go to Paris. We just got to go out and explore, like we were three blocks from the Eiffel Tower, and we could see it from the hotel. But we wanted to explore England as much as we could, like we went to Brighton and swam in the English Channel. We went to the biggest music festival in London and it was taking a chance because it was about a month after the Ariana Grande concert, and it was pretty fresh in people’s minds. But UP was really sweet and brought in the police to talk about safety. I actually went through more security than I had in TSA. We felt so protected and we had the best time because of that.

Emmy Davis is a reporter at The Beacon. She can be reached at davisem22@up.edu.