27 September 2012
MORE THAN A THOUSAND students poured onto the front lawn of Gregory Gym on September 12 to explore a wide range of study abroad options.
With over 400 programs spanning dozens of countries, the variety of choices might seem overwhelming. But for Hector Garza, a freshman geology major, the choices represent a world of possibilities.
“I like that there a lot of choices,” he said. “In geology, you have to travel to a lot of different places, so, this is great.”
The ambitions of students wishing to study abroad are as diverse as the programs offered. Megha Uppal, a sophomore biology major, wants to study abroad in Africa to work in a medical clinic.
“I believe traveling is my education,” she said. “You have to experience everything.”
More students are studying abroad than ever, recognizing the tremendous benefit such an experience can provide.
Marlene Bartlett represents the Swedish Foundation, an organization that sponsors students wishing to study abroad in Sweden – for nearly any concentration or major.
For Marlene, the benefits of studying abroad are clear.
“It broadens students’ horizons,” she said. “When employers come to UT for recruiting, the first thing they want to see are your grades. The second thing they want to see is if you have studied abroad, because we live in a world where you will be expected to work with people from all over.”
Professor of geography and environmental science Thoralf Meyer, who leads the Climate Change, Ecosystems, and Human Dynamics study abroad program in Botswana, echoed these sentiments.
“Study abroad is especially important for American students, who might not travel internationally as much as students from other parts of the world,” he said.
The program in Botswana is one of the university’s most unique offerings, according to Monya Lemery, team leader for study abroad program development at the UT International Office.
“It’s an opportunity to explore something very different,” she said.
The program takes students to Botswana to conduct field-oriented environmental and ecological work. Though Botswana is on the other side of the world, the climates and terrains are very similar to those in Texas, giving students the opportunity to directly apply what they learned once they return home.
Students studying in Botswana observe the effects of climate change on the intricate ecosystem of the Kalahari desert, while immersing themselves in the rich local culture. The seven-week summer program is taught at a camp outside of the town of Ghanzi in western Botswana.
“It teaches students how our political decisions can impact the environment,” Thoralf said.
Regardless of where students study abroad or what they end up studying, the experience it provides is not one that can be replicated in a lecture hall.
“It’s a great opportunity to not only experience a new culture,” said Monya. “But also to learn about yourself and experience personal growth.”
Written by Angie Pastorek