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Join several UM Arabic students on Thursday, September 18, from 7-8:30PM in the Davidson Honors College at University of Montana for a night of dialogue and sharing of their summer and spring travels in the Arab world. Listen as Olivia Holter relates her experiences spending the Easter holiday in Jerusalem with Palestinian Christians. Hear from Katheryn Houghton about her time studying Arabic language and culture in Oman and from Sara Thane about the culture and politics of Morocco. Eamon Ormseth and Mikaela Koski will share their thoughts and experiences studying Arabic, Palestinian culture, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Afterwards, fresh hummus and pita courtesy of Jerusalemite and UM Arabic teacher Samir Bitar will be served in the DHC Ephron Student Lounge.
Our summer intern Emily Etchart’s story is on Internship Services site. We wish her good luck while abroad in Karlsruhe, Germany!
Meet Ilse! This Seattle native was inspired to study abroad in college at Jean Moulin Lyon III in Lyon, by an exchange program in France while in high school in the city of Salon-de-Provence. After graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in International Political Science and French, Ilse returned to France again, this time to Toulouse to teach English to French elementary students. Ilse now works for the Boston-based travel company called Student Universe, which is aimed towards working with college aged student groups to find the best airfare rate for their budget. She also sells tours for individuals and groups all over the world. Ilse has spent a lot of time exploring other countries and has a dear admiration for all things travel related! Whether she’s hiking in the mountains near Missoula or gallivanting across the city in Boston, she enjoys soaking up whatever environment she is in. Other interests of Ilse’s include being outdoors, photography, cooking, and speaking with French with others!
What are your responsibilities at Student Universe?
I’m a travel services agent for Student Universe, which is geared for college students to help find cheaper flights through our different contracts with airlines. I work with groups, which is considered more than nine people and my job is to find out what the group is looking for and work with their budget. For example, if a group from U of M contacts us to say that they are interested in traveling from Missoula, Montana to London we work with an airline and the group’s budget to find what they’re looking for. There are a lot of responsibilities because I’m contractually bound to both the airlines and the clients. I have my own territory that I am in charge of (meaning all groups that originate in my area deal directly with me). My area includes most of the states in the middle of the country (including Montana!), and Canada. We have a partnership with G Adventures, a Canadian tour company that specializes in adventure, ecotourism. We literally have trips everywhere – even Antarctica!
Do you feel that Study Abroad sparked your interest in working for Student Universe?
My study abroad experience through U of M reinforced the idea that traveling is something I’m passionate about and that I want to work in the travel industry. I like being around people who are enthusiastic about traveling, and people from other cultures. My experience definitely made me realize that this is what I want to do.
How do you feel learning French was compared actually using in it in France? Did you feel prepared?
The study abroad experience I had in high school prepared me to feel comfortable with speaking French. It wasn’t necessarily my level of French that I was concerned about when I went abroad in college, since I had already learned to be okay with making a fool of myself and asking questions, therefore becoming more confident in my speaking. However, I wish that I had been able to take a translation class before leaving, I was able to take some of these courses in France and found them very helpful. Either way, by the end of my year in Lyon, I felt confident in my level of French, both speaking and comprehension.
There is a stereotype about French hating Americans. . Do you feel that was reflected on you?
There are people that fit that stereotype in France, but I feel that there are people that fit that stereotype everywhere. Americans are definitely friendlier on the outside and tend to approach people in an outgoing manner, but may never speak to you again. Whereas, in France I would say that a lot of French people may not be very friendly at first but once you get to know them, they are very true and genuine friends. Sometimes I would speak in French and people would hear my American accent and start speaking back to me in English, but I would continue speaking in French to prove that I was capable of doing so. It was frustrating, but sometimes I would meet people who were really interested talking to me after hearing my American accent and were very curious to know what I was doing in France.
Meet Thayer! Hailing from Bozeman, Thayer studied abroad at Griffith University in Australia in 2009-2010 and graduated from UM with a degree in Marketing and Entertainment Management in 2012. After graduating, he had a standard 9-5 job and realized that the desk lifestyle wasn’t meant for him so he decided to explore the world. The heart of a true traveler, Thayer purchased a van while he studied abroad in order to have the opportunity to see more of Australia. More recently, Thayer has now spent the past eleven months traveling through Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Thayer recently started a company called The Mapped Creative, a freelance marketing agency that runs unique marketing campaigns for companies abroad. Thayer and his team of freelancers create content driven campaigns by integrating travel, photo, photography, video, and social media through a unique freelance platform.
Thayer during his eleven month travel journey
Do you feel that Study Abroad influenced your decision to move to Bali?
Ultimately, yes through Study Abroad I realized that there was more out there. When I studied abroad I didn’t go home at all for a year and realized I was able travel comfortably and independently. After graduating, I decided to backpack around the world by myself. I’ve spent the last eleven months traveling through Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. I started in Ethiopia and continued to Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Indonesia. After five months in Southeast Asia I explored Australia and New Zealand for two months hitchhiking, surfing, and fly fishing. After living out of my backpack for almost eight months, I decided to settle in Bali, Indonesia. The move was inspired by the creative start-up culture in Bali.
(The following photos were captured by Thayer while exploring the world.)
What has the transition been like going from living in Montana to Australia and now Bali?
I love Montana more than anything; I have yet to find a place as amazing as Montana. The transition has been hard but the more I travel and live in these crazy places it just becomes normal. I feel that next time I come back to America it will feel like reverse culture-shock.
Why did you choose Australia and would you see that culturally it is similar to the United States?
It was my first time leaving the country by myself, and I assumed it was kind of similar. I feel that going to Australia is the most cliché place you could study abroad but I ended up really liking it. I suggest anyone who is thinking about studying there to absolutely do it.
I would say culturally, Australians are very different than Americans, Australians are more laid back and nice.
Thank you Thayer!
For more information on The Mapped Creative:
Katy while backpacking in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Meet Katy! She is originally from Billings and is currently a junior at the University of Montana. Katy studied in Bulgaria through ISEP exchange and attended the American University in Bulgaria studying Elementary Education. Initially she wanted to go to The Netherlands, but when Katy discovered that she had been accepted to Bulgaria, an alternative choice in her application process, she was thrown off a bit. Her feelings were due to an American perspective that Eastern Europe is scary place and unsafe. The Study Abroad Coordinator Melissa, who also attended the same program in Bulgaria, helped Katy with her anxiety about living in Bulgaria. She became more excited about the possibilities not only available in Bulgaria but also in other countries. One thing that Katy was very happy about when living in Bulgaria was that the cost of living, compared to if she had studied in the Netherlands. “A lot of bang for your buck,” Katy says. Katy also received many scholarships for her program to study in a developing country and was able to travel to over thirteen countries during her time abroad. Besides being a Globe Trotter Katy enjoys skiing and playing guitar!
A bridge in Rila, Bulgaria
What were your purpose/goals in studying abroad?
I had never been out of the country and wanted to experience another culture, and the way people live in countries outside of the United States. However, the main goal was self-exploration, seeing the world, and growing personally. I am still receiving loans and scholarships so I was able to afford to travel. Study abroad was a good idea for me because it was an opportune time to see the world.
Making a wish at the Trevi Fountain in Italy over Katy’s spring break in 2014.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment for you?
Before I left for Bulgaria I was visiting friends on the east coast so I ended up arriving in Bulgaria three days early by myself and was not only adjusting from my time on the east coast but also to the major culture shock of being in a different country. The Bulgarian language looks really intense, so I felt intimidated and isolated myself in my hotel room.I realized later, that many people in the community speak English so I would have been fine venturing out on my own a bit more! After the initial shock of being alone, and being in a country where I didn’t speak the language, I was perfectly fine. The people at AUBG work really hard by providing orientations, helping you become acclimated to the environment.
Bulgarian beauty at the Rila Monastery
Where was your favorite place you were able to travel to and would you say that traveling within Europe was fairly accessible?
It is impossible to claim a favorite country but there are some places you never hear about or would expect in the eastern region of Europe like Croatia and Macedonia that were very beautiful places and staying there was very cheap. Some of the places I recommend to travel to if you ever go to Europe, specifically Eastern Europe are Istanbul in Turkey, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary. Don’t worry about traveling around Europe because are some really cheap airlines like Ryan Air and EasyJet which, if you’re traveling to Eastern Europe, might cost like 20 euros which is around 25 dollars. Bus transportation, which is how I did a majority of my travel, is cheap also but takes longer.
Exploring Budapest, Hungary
What would you say was the most important lesson you would pass on to other students going abroad?
What made my experience so wonderful were the friends I made. I would say forming relationships with not only the students that are in the same program as you, but also from the country you’re studying in or from other countries as well, is critical. I know it sounds cliché toencourage potential study abroad students to make friends with people from all over the world, but it really helps make your study abroad experience incredible and unique. You should also try to have an open-mind and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Yes, the language barrier can be tricky but don’t just hang out with other Americans all the time! I made really good friends with the locals and with western Europeans as well who were studying abroad there. I would also state that making international friends changes your perspective on the States and about the way you do things- not necessarily in a negative way though. But you come back home with a more global view on life and the world around you.
Meet Alette! A Billings native and former Study Abroad intern who studied Marketing and International Business at U of M, and now is a Marketing Coordinator for TOMS (shoe company and more importantly, giving company), at it’s European headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Before landing her picture perfect career, Alette studied abroad for two semesters at the Universiteit van Amsterdam during 2010-2011 and claims that study abroad gave her the confidence to pursue a career overseas. Her father originates from Holland and runs a bakery in Billings called, Caramel Cookie Waffle. Out of curiosity from her roots, she wanted to study in Amsterdam to learn Dutch fluently. Studying abroad opened Alette’s eyes to the realization of the world outside of the United States and outside of Montana. Alette now works with thirty different employees from twelve different countries. She is one of two other Americans within the office, and is constantly learning!
Alette captured in true European style riding her bicycle during the first week of her job as a TOMS Marketing Coordinator
What is your favorite part about living overseas?
It’s great to be exposed to different people and new experiences daily, while being able to travel and be immersed in a different culture. I have lived here for six months now and have to stop myself sometimes, and think, “Wow, I actually LIVE here – I am literally living out my dream.” When I think about Study Abroad the first thought is “absolutely invaluable”. It’s an incredible and life changing experience that will change you forever (and of course, is a lot of fun too). It gives people the opportunity to really live in another culture, opposed to just being a visitor. Being in another country and having a purpose is so much different than just traveling somewhere. You have the opportunity to become completely immersed in a new culture, meet incredible people and forge friendships that will continue much further, the chance to learn a new language, challenge yourself, and ultimately gain an entirely new perspective on the world we all live in.
Alette and her father visiting Utrecht during her Study Abroad experience in 2010.
How has study abroad influence you career path?
It helped me realize my ambitions and look past the borders of my own country, and helped me realize that I could accomplish a lot more than I thought I could physically and mentally. There are so many opportunities in the world; it’s just about having the confidence and ambition to actively seek them. Study abroad was my first step in realizing how rewarding living and working abroad can be. In a lot of ways, it was the spark that started a flame. It made me realize, it’s not just a dream – it’s achievable, even for a girl from Montana.
Would you say that studying abroad set you apart in the workforce?
It absolutely set me apart, and was a key factor in how I got this job. It’s very risky for an employer to higher someone from another country, because it’s often very shocking for those who haven’t been abroad before. For me, Study Abroad set me up to know that I could live in a country by myself. When employers would look at my resume they would say, “Wow, you studied abroad! Tell me about the experiences you had.” It shows that you are obviously capable of living in another country, but much more importantly, that you are also open to new experiences, self-sufficient, confident, have the ability to work and communicate with different kinds of people, and have a global perspective.
This doesn’t just apply to working abroad; it also when applying for jobs within the United States. After I graduated I moved to L.A. and worked for American Apparel. I remember that in the interview, the manager was skimming silently through my resume and pointed out directly, “So, you lived a year abroad. That’s really interesting for a girl from Montana.” We ended up talking about that for quite a bit of my interview. Companies today almost all work internationally to some extent. Although they may not have an office abroad, somewhere along the value chain they are working globally, and at the very least are thinking globally. The job market is changing; it does give people the edge. It is something that people say all the time to you when you’re growing up, but when you are actually a member of the workforce, it’s interesting to see that it really does make a difference.
Alette giving a speech at the retail store opening of TOMS in Europe in 2014.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence for studying abroad?
Absolutely do it! I can honestly say, I have never met anyone that regrets studying abroad, only people that regret never doing it. The experiences you gain from Study Abroad you can’t gain anywhere else. It’s the one time in your life that you’re allowed to take the time to explore and experience something new with support, while at the same time getting your education. I feel like some students are apprehensive about graduating late, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to set you back at all, and I can say with confidence that it was the best experience I had while getting my degree. I double majored, minored, and still managed to graduate on time with high honors – and all of my scholarships applied. Another worry for students is that it’s so far from home and your family, but I found that studying abroad also comes with an incredible support system. Every other student you’ll meet abroad is in the exact same position as you – they are outgoing, excited to experience something new as well, and can’t wait to make friends. It’s crazy how study abroad creates such strong bonds in a short amount of time. I consider some of the friends I made, my closest. After studying abroad, and during my last year at the University of Montana, I connected with a lot of students that studied abroad during the same time in completely different places around the world. We immediately bonded although each of us had entirely different experiences.
It may sound cliché, but it’s completely true… The important thing to remember about study abroad is that it isn’t just about the incredible experiences you have in that semester or year in a foreign country, but the way it changes your perspective, your bonds with people, your confidence, and ambitions for the rest of your life.
Pre-departure interview with Vicki Rectenwald
Vicki asked us if we would give her a pre-departure interview before she leaves for Spain in the fall.
Vicki Rectenwald began college a little differently than most do. She is a single mother of three who decided to attend college after her kid’s grew up. Now that her children are grown-up she can focus on her own professional goals. Vicki said that working twenty years in doing whatever job she could without a college degree was a huge motivator to attend college. Vicki is double majoring in Marketing and International Business. She will be attending Universidad de Granada in Spain for a full academic year. Vicki hopes to work in international trade marketing exports across oceans. We interviewed Vicki before she departs in August and plan on interviewing her when she returns to see how much her life has been altered!
What are you looking forward to the most living about living in Spain?
Living a very different lifestyle, seeing things from a different economic and political perspective. I want to see all of southern Spain, the blend of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian influences on the architecture and art. I’m excited to walk on roads built by the romans, walk through cathedrals that were formerly mosques, and see the rich paintings and sculpture, all of the art work. Seeing Flamenco in person would be nice.
What do you think the biggest cultural adjustment will be?
The biggest change fro me, especially as an American business student, is the different pace of life and emphasis on personal interaction that is part of Spanish culture. The tradition of siesta is wholeheartedly embraced, and they do not know show the same level of urgency to focus on success that we do. That does not mean they do no have the same desire to succeed they just approach it differently, and it is important for my future in international to gain better understanding of this perspective
What are you expecting to gain through studying abroad?
I’m expecting to gain a lot professionally and academically. I hope to have an understanding of different perspective that will help me with my career. Most of all personal reasons, to expand myself as a person and have an understanding of other people and cultures. Studying abroad will help me focus on cross-cultural marketing.
Were you conflicted in the choices you had picking a location to study abroad at?
I originally wanted to apply to Cordoba, which is an hour away from Granada. However, Granada has a stronger business, and international program. I did want to choose my location and didn’t want anyone else to choose it for me. People have asked me, “Why not Chile?” which is a more common place to improve Spanish. Personal reasons influenced my choice; I’ve wanted to go to Spain since I was a little girl.
Do you plan to travel anywhere else in Europe?
Italy, Greece, Tunisia, and Morocco would be great! I have a friend who’s trying to recruit me to get my MBA in Tunisia, so I will visit there and see how I like it.
Meet Grace Yon, a native of San Francisco who just graduated from UM with a degree in Japanese and literature with an emphasis in writing. Grace has enjoyed spending time with her family that recently relocated to Montana before she attends a one-year master’s program pursuing Translation Studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Grace studied abroad through Kumamoto University in Kumamoto, Japan for a full academic year in 2012-2013. We interviewed Grace about her experience abroad as well as her upcoming excursion to Scotland!
Grace and her grandmother pictured at Nagasaki
What are you looking forward to the most about attending grad school in Scotland?
It will feel like studying abroad again! My mom is from England originally and I have European citizenship. I will still be on my own again, which is daunting but fun and It will also be a different environment. A lot of the friends I made while abroad were from Europe so I feel like it will be like having a reunion with my international friends.
Did you find difficulty making friends?
I didn’t at all, I was nervous the first couple days. It’s like when you start college everyone’s in the same situation. Within the first couple days I met people that I became friends with for the rest of the year. I lived within a minute walk of my international friends. My school was really good about integrating International and native students together. There was an international study lounge where a lot of people went who wanted to practice different languages, or to hang out there. International clubs at Kumamoto University, kind of like UM’s International Student Association, organized university-sponsored trips and fun cultural activities so that exchange students could get to know each other. I also joined a club on campus and was the only non-Japanese student there, which was how I made a lot of my friends.
What do you feel from studying abroad will last the longest with you?
I was in an immersion program, where I learned so much language. I learned how to be independent and adaptable. You get that to a certain degree when you first go to college, but studying abroad is on a higher level. Often you’re in a place where English isn’t the main language so there is often a language barrier. Even English speaking countries have different customs and cultures. Learning that you can do that, and can live in a foreign country is a really good feeling. I now feel a lot more comfortable going on an international trip. I feel like I grew up a lot there, like managing my money and figuring out what I needed to do for the day.
Grace (located on the left) at the Japan-U.S. friendship dinner at her host university.
If you had a chance, would you study abroad at the same location or in a different country?
I loved where I was, I would love to travel more in Japan. However I would probably like to go to another place and have the opportunity to travel more. I’m looking forward to going somewhere internationally for grad school!