Students share study abroad experiences

Rose Shultz

Sharing pictures of women weaving colorful rugs and telling stories of taking wrong trains and ending up in different countries helped study-abroad students relive the excitement of their overseas experiences.

Students who studied abroad in the past year were invited to a reception to swap stories, food and a message from President Gregory Geoffroy Thursday in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.

Geoffroy started his speech by having all study-abroad returnees say the words “welcome back” simultaneously in the languages they learned while they studied outside the states.

He expressed how valuable the study-abroad experience is to one’s education in a world where boundaries are evaporating.

“You are all such a tremendous resource,” Geoffroy said. “Consider yourself ambassadors. We need your help to spread the word so more students each year can have the same enlightening experience that you have had.”

Proudly displaying the number 1,047 on every piece of reception cake, Iowa State proclaimed its record number of students studying abroad. Students representing every college at Iowa State visited 40 countries on six continents.

Geoffroy made it clear that students are the best advocators for the program when they share their experiences.

Three students described their study abroad stories at the reception.

“This was the first time I studied abroad, but it definitely changed my life,” said Benjamin White, graduate student in educational leadership and policy studies who studied in Seoul, Korea. “It was amazing to see 500-year-old palaces and artifacts right next to modern-day highways and apartments.”

In addition to learning in the classroom, some students, like Corinn Brockman, junior in microbiology, chose to work abroad.

“One of the jobs I had in London was catering for some celebrity parties,” Brockman said. “I saw Gillian Anderson from The X-Files, David Blaine, Mick Jagger and many British stars I didn’t really know.”

Although catering is something that happens in almost every country in the world, the food that comes on the platter may differ quite a bit.

Colin Kurth, senior in marketing who studied in France, said his taste buds were challenged abroad.

“I was very open to a lot of their food,” he said. “I drew the line at blood sausage though.”

And food wasn’t the only thing ISU students put in their mouths.

“I stuck my foot in my mouth a lot,” Kurth said. “One day, I was talking to my French friends about how excited I was to take a boat ride down the Seine River. All of the sudden, they all looked at me funny and started laughing. It turns out, the word for `river’ is close to the word for `breast,’ and I was talking about going down the breast of Paris.”

A loss of words also made it more of a challenge for students like Ulonda Mills, senior in political science, to get around their foreign countries.

“I was going to take the train to downtown Hong Kong to meet a friend for lunch,” she said. “It was my first time all alone, and I ended up getting on a train that took me to the border of mainland China. It took a while to get back.”

ISU students who are interested in studying abroad are encouraged to visit the ISU Web site or the Study Abroad Center.

Despite a couple wrong turns, students said they felt this was one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences of their lives.

“My best experience was becoming a minority,” White said.

“It really made me look at myself differently.”