Study abroad still worth the experience

Many have said studying abroad broadens your horizons, is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and looks great on a resume. So why don’t more students choose to study abroad?

There are thousands of reasons why students should study abroad, but many students still choose not to study abroad for many reasons.

Some of these reasons are leaving their comfort zone, graduating as soon as possible, hard to fit study abroad in their schedules, and for a lot of students, money.

Students, however, need to worry less about these influences on not studying abroad, and need to think more about the returns of studying abroad.

Leah Bauer is currently a student at UW-Eau Claire who studied abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain and said unlike others she knows, she always knew she wanted to study abroad.

Bauer said students at UWEC majoring or minoring in a language study are required to study abroad which helped her pursue her dream of studying abroad because even though she knew coming in to college that she wanted to, she needed to be pushed.

After studying abroad, Bauer said she found out so much about herself that she would not have found by staying in UWEC.

“Anyone can study abroad if you challenge yourself,” said Bauer. “You can surprise yourself with what you can do.”

UW-Platteville student Ashton Brusca studied abroad in Newcastle, Australia and said his favorite part about studying abroad was finding out more about himself.

“I knew who I was as an individual before going abroad,” said Brusca. “But I truly found myself and my passions while abroad half way around the world with only a couple of people that actually knew who I was.”

Even after studying abroad and saying how amazing of an experience they had, Bauer and Brusca had to admit money was in the back of their minds when choosing to study abroad.

Students tend to believe that studying abroad costs more than their already high tuition at their home college, but in some cases, this is not the truth.

Global Experiences Coordinator Dan Colleran said most of the programs and expenses that students experience abroad are the same by staying at their school.  Colleran said everyone pays for a dorm or an apartment just like they would at a school abroad and everyone has to pay for their expenses at home just like they would abroad.

Colleran said his biggest regret was not studying abroad when he had the chance to when he was in college. Not only was study abroad cheaper back then, he also received a scholarship but thought he was already too in debt to go.

Some students may choose a direct exchange program which means students will pay the same tuition abroad as they would if they stayed at their home college.

UW-Whitewater student Vicki Gramse, who is currently studying abroad in Hertfordshire, England, chose this option because she was determined to study abroad no matter what the cost.

“I told myself whatever it cost I was going to pay it because I heard from friends and family that they let money be an issue and never went, so I didn’t let it be an issue,” said Gramse.

Other students who did not choose a direct exchange program said they thought the cost was not too different from what they were already paying.

Taylor Hebel is a student at UW-Madison and studied abroad for an academic year in Madrid and said her costs were similar to going to school in Madison.

“My program fee was very comparable to UW-Madison,” said Hebel. “I worked a lot before I went and continue to do so after returning from study abroad and I planned ahead.”

Planning ahead is always something students should consider before deciding where to go abroad. By planning ahead, students can decide how much money they have to work with and how much they still need to work towards.

Kyle McLean is currently studying at UWP and said before he studied abroad in Ireland, he really wanted to go to Australia but money would not allow this.

“I was originally going to go to Australia,” said McLean. “But it ended up being too much and I chose Ireland instead, which still ended up over budget for me.”

Global Experiences Coordinator Mikaela Auerbach said the Center for Global Education (CGE) at UW-Whitewater is doing everything they can possible to put study abroad in students’ minds before coming to UW-Whitewater.

“We want study abroad to be a part of people’s minds before they come to Whitewater so they can be informed and know more about the process to start planning early in their college career,” said Auerbach.

Auerbach said they see students come in to the CGE as a senior wishing they had known more about it before because they think it is too late as a senior to study abroad. This is why they work hard to inform students early on.

Besides planning ahead or choosing a direct exchange program, there are several other ways to overcome money issues when thinking about studying abroad.

Colleran and Auerbach explained several ways students could receive more money through financial aid, scholarships and grants and said even though money is a big factor, students need to know these are just a few of the main ways to overcome that factor.

If a student knows they want to study abroad they can talk to their financial aid and find packages they can bring abroad with them.

Auerbach said there are some scholarships designed specifically for study abroad students through UWW and through study abroad programs.

The CGE website shows different scholarships students can apply for and has resources about grants and other ways to help fund students study abroad experiences.

Auerbach said she believes a lot of students just see the “sticker price” of how much studying abroad can cost and think this is out of their reach, but by applying for scholarships, grants and loans, students will start to see that it is not.

U.S. students are not alone when money factors start becoming an issue on whether they should study abroad or not. International students studying abroad in the U.S. also have this same problem.

They have many reasons for not studying abroad just like U.S. students, but like U.S. students, money still seems to be a major factor.

Alicia Haley is the International Student Advisor in the CGE offices and said it is expensive for international students to study abroad here.

Haley said international students have to prove a lot of different things when they choose to study abroad and one is that they are financially stable to study abroad.

Most international schools do not have financial aid like students do here and end up having to pay out of state tuition which is not cheap.

The current exchange rate is hurting students studying abroad from the U.S. and internationally but this makes other countries gain popularity because they may be cheaper to travel to.

Australia is one country that has started to gain popularity within the recent years because not only is it a little cheaper than some places in Europe, but it also is an English speaking country.

Haley said English speaking countries are starting to become the top study abroad countries because of globalization and companies starting to go global.

English speaking countries are a popular destination for U.S. students also because they may be worried about the language barrier that comes with traveling abroad.

Bauer said studying in a country where everyone speaks Spanish made her a little nervous, but after her semester there, she seemed more confident about her Spanish.

“I knew of someone who studied abroad in Spain for ten months and when she came back she had become so fluent in Spanish,” said Bauer. “I know she couldn’t have become that fluent unless she had been there for that long.”

Students can find many returns like Bauer and Brusca said previously how they found who they truly are and Bauer becoming more fluent with a different language. But another return is being able to travel around the world and discovering more about different cultures.

Hebel said while she was in Europe she took full advantage of being close to several different countries and learning about their cultures.

On the other hand, traveling around outside your country can lead some students back to the issue of money.

Gramse said she only has classes two times a week which gives her plenty of time to travel, but at the same time she is limited to where she can go by how much it costs.

“Money has affected where I travel to and how much I travel because transportation is not cheap,” said Gramse.

McLean did not allow cost to be too big of an issue on his traveling while abroad.

McLean took a ten day trip while on his winter break to six different countries in Europe. He also traveled all throughout Ireland while in school.

Money will always be an issue for students just like getting out of your comfort zone or finding time for study abroad, but students need to realize these benefits of going.

Colleran said, “If you have the ambition and the will, the money will come.”

Everyone interviewed has said studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and students need to get out there and do it!

There are more options than semester and year programs if students think they cannot afford them.

According to the Institute of International Education’s “Fast Facts” found on iie.org, there is a steady increase in the amount of students studying abroad.

Last year there was a 5.7 percent increase making a record high of more than 764,000 students studying abroad between 2011 and 2012.

Colleran said the new trend for students is traveling for the summer, during the winterim or choosing to take a travel study class where they are only abroad for a couple weeks or a month.

This is increasing the amount of students study abroad, it just is not for as long as time as it used to be.

Auerbach agreed with Colleran and said there is a big upward trend of students starting to study abroad with a decrease in how long they are staying.

Auerbach said this can be due to money issues but she has found students who have the money and want to study abroad do not have the time in their schedule to go abroad for a semester. She said it does still get people out there, but students could be getting a better experience by staying longer.

Hebel studied abroad for ten months and really got to live within the Spanish culture.

“Study abroad gives you such a unique experience that you will not get in your everyday life,” said Hebel. “I think it’s important for all people to learn about other cultures and to gain a different perspective about the world.”

Colleran, Auerbach and Haley have all said with all of the different returns students get from studying abroad, the most important thing to think about is how it will look on a resume.

All the returns students get from studying abroad comes back with that students and makes them a more well-rounded person.

Colleran said future employers are looking for someone who is willing to challenge themselves and “immerse” themselves in different cultures. He said studying abroad “not can, but will help your future career.”

Brusca said students should not think twice about studying abroad and should just do it because they do not know what they are missing until they go.

“Once you are abroad and ask the people how they doing and if anything is new with them at home, their answer is going to be ‘No, nothing new, I’m doing fine,’ 90 percent of the time,” said Brusca. “On the flipside, you will have made so many lifelong memories that you will never ever forget and will love to share them with the people back home.”

Students should not let money or any other factor keep them from something they only get a chance at once in their life. Gramse said students cannot put a price tag on their experience which everyone else interviewed agreed on.

McLean said there is nothing like the study abroad experience.

“It is worth it,” said McLean. “After it’s all said and done, it’s impossible to replicate the experiences you had on your own while abroad. You learn a lot and meet different people who you can’t meet at home.”

One last step to complete adulthood

People say going to college can be the hardest thing to do in life, but personally, I think graduating college may be the hardest. Throughout these last four years, I have grown as a person, discovered new things about myself, and have overcame so many obstacles it is hard to remember them all. Graduation is in a little more than two weeks and as graduating seniors, we have to think about these last four years and how those four years are going to affect the rest of our lives’.

I came to UW-Whitewater knowing ahead of time that I was going to be a journalism major. It is kind of strange, but I can still remember being in second grade writing a story about a vampire and loving every minute of it. I loved creating something and being able to decide what happened along the way and this was when it hit me what I wanted to do the rest of my life. As a second grader I knew I wanted to write for a living. In high school, I decided to take yearbook freshmen year and I loved writing articles for our town paper each week and thought how cool would it be to do this every week!? I was never big in to current events or politics, I wanted to write about what was going on in the high school and write about the upcoming plays.

I was unable to participate in yearbook every year of high school because of other classes I was required to take, but I made sure my senior year I was able to take it for at least a semester. My teacher knew how much I loved the class freshmen year and must of seen something in me because she selected me as editor when other students had taken the class a lot more than I had. I took it as a sign though and received a few journalism awards as a senior and just knew this is what I had a passion for and was what I was going to be doing the rest of my life.  I know I am not the best writer, and am still learning how to write properly, and I am ok with that. I love learning and I know I will never be the best reporter or the best writer, but as long as I love what I am doing and am still learning about new things every day, I could not have asked for a better career choice.

I knew two people from my high school who would also be attending UW-Whitewater with me freshmen year. One just happened to be one of my best friends but we made sure we lived on different sides of campus so we could meet new people. I had talked to my roommate a few times before moving in and we seemed to click online but once we moved in and were living together, everything changed. I have to admit, everything I knew about going to college I had seen on TV so I expected to be best friends with my new roommate and expected teachers to crack down on students, but I also knew this was going to be an experience I did not want to miss out on. I did not become best friends with my roommate (she moved out of the room in November our first semester) and I got along with most of my teachers and they were pretty outgoing for the most part. I felt comfortable with them and still say hi to them when I do not even have their class anymore. I think Professor Mead still knows me as Red because I dyed my hair bright red the first month of school.

Speaking of Mead, I will never forget the first day of classes because of him. I decided the summer before freshmen year that I was going to be in the journalism learning community to get more hands on with my career choice right away my freshmen year. It was definitely the best choice I could have made and had the best professor to teach me; Professor Jim Mead. Our first day of class, we had all gotten to know each other already and were pretty comfortable going in to his class, or so we thought. Apparently he wanted to scare us the first day, and made it seem like we were not able to talk in the classroom until class time started. It was very intimidating, but he turned out to be a great teacher with a very different sense of humor but overall, I could not have asked for anyone better.

With the learning community, not only did I get to start taking classes as a freshman that some students are not able to take until they are sophomores or juniors, but I got the opportunity to meet great people in my field and have a helpful teacher in the field. I definitely encourage every incoming student to join a learning community because it really does help you out throughout your college experience. Even though I am not the closest anymore with those in my learning community, they are still familiar faces in most of my classes and that is always something students want.

If I had the choice to go back and erase all of this, I would not. If I did not have a choice though, I still would have been a writer; I probably would have majored in English or professional writing. My junior year of high school I came to UW-Whitewater and looked through the pamphlets of what I could major in and those were my two choices. I am a writer, no matter what people say, I consider myself a writer and cannot imagine myself being happy in a career where I am not writing.

Four years later and I cannot imagine myself anywhere besides where I am right now. I do not have a job lined up yet as a reporter, but I am still looking and am confident I will find something. I am definitely not the same person I was when I first arrived to the dorms freshmen year. I am not the same person I was last year at this time. As humans, we are forever changing, and going to college is a part of the human experience that not all get to participate in. In the last four years, I have studied abroad, gotten married, found out who my true friends are, and learned what I want to do more than anything for the rest of my life.

Finding who you are and who you want to be, I believe, is the hardest thing about life and is why I think graduating college is the hardest part about life. This means you are supposed to know these two things and means you think you are accomplished enough to go out in the real world and live. We live as much as possible during college, (we cannot lie about this, we all know why Thursday is the best night of the week) and now thinking about it being over is scary. This is not the same type of living we have been doing, this is professional living. I am scared to death, but I know I am prepared because of the last four years of my life; my college life. I am going to miss going to school and I am going to miss college. However, I am not going to miss being stressed all the time with two jobs and school and always having to make sure I time manage everything so I can get everything done and still have time to have dinner with my husband at home.

I am ready for the real world to come at me full swing; I am ready to take the next step in my life. Once I step across that stage at graduation that is it; I am a true adult. We have gotten to the point of no return. I now know who I am now and I know the past four years have not been for nothing. I could not have asked for a better experience and I have UW-Whitewater to thank mostly. So thank you Whitewater, I will miss you greatly.

Fort Atkinson and Whitewater pass Move to Amend Referenda

Support for the national Move to Amend movement was shown in the April 2 election from Fort Atkinson and Whitewater voters.

When the night came to a conclusion, both towns showed their vast support with 1,312 “yes” votes or 76 percent in Fort Atkinson and 1,013 “yes” votes or 83 percent in Whitewater.

Dan Fary of the Town of Oakland, who helped organize the Rock River Affiliate of Move to Amend said, “It just shows the overwhelming support that citizens have for a constitutional amendment to return control of the democracy to the citizens.”

Back in December, more than 775 signatures from people in both Fort Atkinson and Whitewater were certified to ask their councils to have the movement on their referendum at the April 2 election.

The Move to Amend movement came after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 against the Citizens United group in 2010 saying the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting political expenses by big corporations and unions.

This decision made it possible for super PACs and other big corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money in the 2012 presidential campaign, making it the most expensive campaign in history.

President Barak Obama said this ruling will eventually “drown out the voices of everyday Americans” because of the power so many corporations and unions would now have on politics in Washington.

The Move to Amend organization is still fighting to get their word across the United States to stop big spending from corporations and state the money is not speech and should not be protected from the First Amendment.

On the homepage of the Move to Amend website, created for the purpose to get the word out about the organization, it is clearly stated what they are for: “We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”

The winning votes in Walworth County is a step in the right direction and James Hartwick, who led the petition efforts in Whitewater, said he was surprised at how much this issue was supported in the two communities.

“I am surprised and pleased by the outpouring of the average person saying enough is enough,” said Hartwick.

Hartwick said these results showed “strong bipartisan support to get money out of elections.”

So far there have been at least six Wisconsin counties that have passed resolutions in support of a constitutional amendment that address concerns about money and elections including Eau Claire County and Dane County.

In order to amend the U.S. Constitution, both houses of Congress must pass the amendment with a two-thirds majority and then must be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states.

The Constitution has only been ratified once by state legislatures to eliminate Prohibition.

Gary Petre Says Good-Bye to County Position

After seven and a half years of hard work and service, County Administer Gary Petre attended his last County Board meeting Tuesday.

Petre said the decision to retire for a person is one of the hardest decisions to make because it is a life changing event.

“What makes it even more difficult is saying good-bye to the people that you have shared a part of your life with,” said Petre in an issued letter to the County Board.

Petre announced his retirement from County service on Nov. 28, 2012 effective March 31, 2013.

The County Board stood and applauded at the end of the meeting, and said Petre would be missed.

The County Board approved of the appointment of Kathi Cauley as the County’s Interim County Administrator effective April 1.

Cauley will continue her current position as Director of Human Services while covering the County Administrator duties and responsibilities while a new County Administrator is hired.

County Board Chairman John Molinaro said it will be a 60 to 90 day period until the County Administrator Search Committee will fill the vacancy.

In another matter, Dr. Gregg Silberg presented the County Board with more information on the Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine and the plans for a new facility to be located at the Sanctuary Ridge Development, formerly St. Coletta of Wisconsin located on the east side of Jefferson County.

Molinaro said the County Board is very excited the WCOM is planning to open a campus at Sanctuary Ridge because it could be a $35 to $40 million boost to the county economy.

Silberg said most osteopathic doctors tend to stay within the area they went to school.

The County Board hopes within the first year of completion the school will bring 400 graduate students and 100 faculty members to the area which means they will need housing and food during their stay.

The county was in the running with several other counties for the new school, but the availability of broadband was a key factor in the decision.

The new school and labs will have state of the art technology.

“When they talked to me they said we don’t need 21st century technology, we need 22nd technology,” said Molinaro.

With the new technology and resources available at the new campus, Silberg said researchers and other medical physicians will be attracted to the campus to try the new equipment.

After the presentation, some county supervisors expressed their concerns about funding for the campus from Jefferson County.

Molinaro made sure to make it clear to the County Board that he has expressed his concerns about this issue in the past.

“I can guarantee to the board, the doctor has heard from me not once, not twice, but many times that Jefferson County does not have funds to contribute toward this project,” said Molinaro. “We will be very supportive of this project from the Health Department, Human Services and Economic Development, but none of that is committing any funds.”

Knowing there would be no funds from the county, the board unanimously voted in support for the new campus.

In other action, the County Board:

  • Approved a $100,000 Revolving Loan Fund Program loan to Rushing Waters Fisheries, LLC in Palmyra. The company asked for assistance is purchasing approximately $250,000 in equipment to help expand their business.
  •   Declared the month of April 2013 Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.  The Human Services Board brought this proclamation to the supervisors’ attention mentioning “this is an ongoing problem in our society affecting many children in Jefferson County.”
  • Denied the approval of a proposed contract with Barrientos Design for the Lake Mills Satellite Shop. Several supervisors expressed concerns about only having one bid and said the Highway Committee and Infrastructure Committee should look for more bids and a local bid.

Field of Dreams Looks Forward to Construction

Treyton’s Field of Dreams in Starin Park project is starting to look more like a reality as a final site plan update was given at the City Common Council meeting Tuesday.

Park and Recreation Director, Matt Amundson, said since the last update at a council meeting, several things have been defined including the batting cages, parking lots and a pavilion. It was also noted the costs of some of the items will likely be donated.

There were a few concerns by board members about relying on volunteers for the construction of the park who were not on any contract. Amundson said businesses and volunteers have been a great deal of help and want to be a part of the project.

Amundson continued with a case study on a field in Waupun, Wis., which profited from each of its tournaments in 2012. Their field only had three fields, whereas this park will have four so more teams can play in each tournament.

Amundson said for an average tournament, there would be 16 teams to participate in each tournament which would be about 96 athletes and approximately 480 fans.

Amundson said by having more teams come to play and these approximate fans and athletes coming to Whitewater, there will be a lot more business for the city. A few things Amundson said would profit from new visitors would be gas, restaurants, lodging, and to help maintain the fields.

The bidding contracts will be up for approval at the next council meeting.

In other action the Common Council:

  • Approved the purchase of a new police car.

The council chose to purchase the new car locally with Ketterhagen Dealership. The council chose this because there was only a price difference of 1.5% and they would still be under their budget.

  • Approved police department to conduct a Communications Staff Study.

Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher said she recommends APCO International, a Florida based company, to conduct the survey because they had the price point they were looking for with a bid of $8,400.

Otterbacher said the study would help determine the appropriate amount of dispatchers needed at the station at any given time.

Otterbacher said there are issues with the dispatch staffing currently and sometimes there is only one available dispatcher. This can make it hard for them to take several calls at one time and can harm the safety of Whitewater residents.

  • Approved contract with Water Well Solutions to fix city well No. 8 after an inspection on the well found several mechanical issues with the well. The new system shows the well will last longer than the 29 years this well has lasted.
  • Discussed lighting and the pedestrian lights on Main and Cottage streets.

Some council members agreed that they saw more people using the light and more cars stopping. A main concern about the lights was slowing traffic down in those areas.

There were no actions taken place at the meeting for this issue.