6 Students Tell Their 2019 Summer Education Abroad Stories

Cape Town, South Africa, is home to one of this summer’s many education abroad programs.

This summer, 997 undergraduate students from the University of Virginia traveled abroad for educational purposes, participating in 75 unique programs across 58 different countries.

From marine biology in the Bahamas to architecture in China, the University’s Education Abroad Office offers programs in every major, so there’s something for everyone.

“The benefits of education abroad are significant, diverse and lifelong,” said Dudley Doane, the office’s director. “Students commonly tell us that their time away was the most important in their UVA career.

“These students bring a broadened perspective and knowledge base to key issues and questions in their fields of study. They also demonstrate greater understanding of cultural differences, are more adaptable, and have greater coping skills and self-knowledge than their peers who didn’t study abroad.”

Take a look at a few of the opportunities UVA students have been a part of this summer around the world.

Derby, United Kingdom: Rolls Royce International Internship program

Fourth-year mechanical engineering majors Emily Davenport and David Xiao are taking part in an internship with Rolls Royce in the United Kingdom.

The program spans 12 weeks, with the first 11 including the international placement, and the final week at Rolls-Royce’s U.S. headquarters in Indianapolis.

“Currently, with two weeks left in Derby until I fly to Indianapolis, I can say that this program has been a life-changing opportunity,” Davenport said.

Through training courses and networking opportunities, she said, “I’ve gained tremendous professional and academic skills by taking on responsibility for a challenging technical project, working closely with David and a few larger teams based in Derby.

“I’ve personally grown from the unique immersion in an international work culture, as well as traveling to seven countries in my free time here,” she added. “I’m immensely grateful to Rolls-Royce and UVA for providing me with this opportunity, as the skills I’ve learned, experiences I’ve had and friends I’ve made will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Cape Town, South Africa: iXperience Immerse program

Joel Thomas, a third-year student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, is taking part in the inaugural “Immerse” program through UVA’s partnership with iXperience, an international study-abroad school – with some skydiving mixed in.

“The program began with four weeks of global studies courses, where we learned about the history, politics, archaeology, astronomy and environmental conservation efforts throughout South Africa,” Thomas said. “The last six weeks of the program allow students to study a professional industry through an intensive two-week course that then transitions into a four-week internship.

“As someone interested in the intersection of policy, business and law, I decided to study management consulting as a way to improve my business acumen and diversify my résumé.

“While the courses have been intensive, we have also made sure to have fun and soak in all that Cape Town has to offer.”

Cusco, Peru: Peruvian Hearts

Caroline Oyler, a fourth-year student majoring in foreign affairs and Spanish, is volunteering her time this summer with a non-profit organization called Peruvian Hearts in Cusco, Peru, alongside UVA students Priyashma Joshi and Annelise Miranda.

“This NGO focuses on empowering women through education to break the poverty cycle in Peru,” Oyler said. “The girls are supported in their education, from help with completing secondary school and continuing into graduating from university and starting a career.

“All three of us are teaching English to the girls in the program. In addition to that, we each have a personal project. I am creating a video series about the organization for social media promotion, Annelise is creating a brochure for donors, and Priyashma is teaching a health class to the girls.”

Cambodia: SriLab Agriculture Research

Sarah Carter, a fourth-year global development studies major, and UVA colleagues Ravael Loho and Jake DiMeglio are working with the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) after receiving a grant from SriLab to continue research that’s been in progress for more than five years.

“This year, our research concentrated on community-supported agriculture, cashew processing and the effects of climate change on farmers and their land,” Carter said. “Throughout our one month, we worked with our local advisers to interview farmers and business owners who are working to make a more sustainable livelihood for themselves and for the environment.

“We hope to use our research to help connect Cambodian farmers with local and global markets, provide ideas to mitigate farmers' impacts on their land, and bring awareness to the affects of climate change on agriculture back to our classrooms on Grounds.”

Valencia, Spain: Sports, Language and Culture program

UVA football players Lee Dudley and Charles Snowden spent a few weeks in Valencia this summer in the “Sports, Launguage and Culture” program, immersing themselves in Spanish life while continuing their training for the upcoming season.

“It is an intensive, five-week, study-abroad program where you stay with a host family and take Spanish classes,” Dudley said. Snowden praised his host mother as an “absolute angel” whom he and his roommate lovingly referred to as “abuelita,” Spanish for grandmother.

“As a student-athlete, we had to train for our sports all while fulfilling requirements and visiting intriguing places along the way,” Dudley added. He had the opportunity to visit other destinations such as Prague, Czech Repiblic; Salzburg, Austria; and Paris, France while Snowden traveled around Spain to Peñsicola, Madrid and Ibiza in his free time.

“The UVA in Valencia program helped me learn Spanish in a whole new dimension, all while having a wonderful time,” Dudley said. “Fully immersed into the Spanish culture, our skills skyrocketed just after a few weeks in the country. Our teacher, Señora Nieves, was superb and not only taught us the advanced grammar and vocabulary that we needed to know, but how to understand the ways of life.”

Snowden agreed, “My class was pretty interesting because I had such a good professor. She emphasized less on learning Spanish by the books, and more on speaking actual Spanish to native Spanish speakers.

“I loved each experience, but my favorite trip was actually in Valencia when the student-athletes on the trip visited El Estadio Mestalla, the home to Valencia’s soccer team,” he said. “I’m a huge soccer fan, and some of my favorite players have played for Valencia, so to be on the field and in the locker room was amazing.”

Both Dudley and Snowden said they couldn’t have asked for a better experience abroad.

“The whole trip exceeded all expectation,” Snowden said. “I was skeptical about traveling and being in another country, but after it, I’m so glad I went.”

Dudley also said the program lived up to everything he could have wished for and is looking forward to visiting the friends he made in Valencia in the future.

Find out more about the wide array of life-changing education-abroad opportunities that UVA offers here.

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Caroline Newman

Associate Editor Office of University Communications