Spirit of adventure remains with Study Abroad students, post-graduation

Many UW-Green Bay students have taken their experiences, values and passion acquired from living abroad and applied it to their personal and professional lives after graduation. Right by their side (or an e-mail away) is UW-Green Bay’s Office of International Education (OIE).

Ashley Prest graduated from UW-Green Bay in 2008 with a degree in Spanish. Her love for travel was realized after participating in a UW-Green Bay sponsored travel course to New Zealand and Australia.

“It was then that I was struck with the incurable travel bug,” Prest said. “I have always been intrigued by other cultures and had a strong desire to see the world.”

Because of her positive experiences abroad, Prest realized there were so many foreign lands she had not yet experienced.

“I had a burning desire to see the world, experience more cultures and live my life the way I wanted to live it,” Prest said.

Prest took her experiences to heart and continued to live her life exploring. She spent time volunteering in Kenya, backpacking around Europe, and is currently finishing her first year working as an English teacher in South Korea. She values everything that she has learned and experienced.

“Spending time abroad has made me a well-rounded person and it has given me confidence, a growing knowledge of the world and openness to learn and experience new things. I now have the tools I need to live my life in a constant state of growth and learning,” said Prest.

Students who have studied abroad have pat advice for their peers considering travel: “Do it or you will regret it for the rest of your life.”

Josh Dhuey, a 2008 business graduate said his decision to travel was based on the fact that he didn’t want to have regrets.

“There are multitudes of people who either say they have a desire to study abroad but never follow through or, for those who have already graduated, regret not studying abroad.”

With the help of the OIE, Dhuey studied one semester in Bordeaux, France at the BEM Management School and was able to realize his life’s dream.

“Studying abroad really opened my eyes and instilled in me a desire and zeal to keep exploring and traveling,” Dhuey said.

Currently, Dhuey has started his second year teaching English in Japan. He is working abroad with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program.

“I had no desire and still don’t to be sitting behind a desk and starting a conventional career,” he said. “I wanted to explore and experience new and exhilarating things.”

Jonathon Gigot recently sent this update to Kristy Aoki, student adviser in the OIE: “I studied in Marburg in the summer of 2009 and it was amazing. I was planning on moving to China as an English teacher, well that didn’t happen. As I looked at the program I was going to go through in Shenzhen and the city itself, I decided it wasn’t a good fit for me. Instead I did a training course this past September on the island of Sardinia in the town of Alghero in the middle of the Mediterranean. It was awesome. I now live in Turin as an English teacher and am having the time of my life. …If you have any students studying in Italy and are thinking of making a trip to Turin, feel free to have them send me an e-mail and I will show them around town.”

Reports back from UW-Green Bay alumni are among the favorite parts of Aoki’s job. Whether her former students are teaching abroad or using their travel experiences here in the United States, the experiences affirm the work of the OIE in showing students the practical reasons for internationalizing their college experience.

“Recently I ran into Tristan Cray (my former intern), who was teaching in Japan and has since completed his contract in Japan, backpacked through parts of Asia, India and Turkey, and now works as a teacher in Madison at the Wisconsin English as A Second Language Institute,” Aoki said. “After participating in study abroad, students no longer look at issues with a local perspective, but a global perspective. This will last them a lifetime.”

Louna Yang, a 2002 Human Development graduate, was unable to take advantage of the study abroad programs offered by the OIE during her time at UW-Green Bay. The non-traditional student wanted to finish college in three years. However, this did not stop her from experiencing life abroad. After graduation she visited various countries including France, Italy, Africa, Thailand, Laos, Burma and Japan. Yang also participated in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program teaching English in Japan.

“I had heard that the JET program was one of the best English programs in the world,” Yang said. “Japan was a country that would keep me safe, offer many different opportunities to sightsee, meet new people, as well as give me a chance to make a decent salary.”

Yang felt that the thing she learned most from traveling abroad was her resilience and ability to be successful in any endeavor that she may undertake.

“My perspective on life and my future has positively changed,” she said. “I have seen the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich and I know that I can succeed in whatever I put my heart and mind into.”

For students who are interested in studying abroad, the first stop on their journey is the OIE. Adviser Aoki is a popular resource. Aoki was a common influence for these alumni who studied abroad and returned to their host countries to give something back. Aoki was a participant in the JET program as well and is knowledgeable about the challenges and benefits of teaching English in other countries.

“Kristy assisted me in researching about teaching abroad and helped me apply for different programs,” Yang said. “Most importantly, she believed in me and helped me feel confident about my decision to teach abroad.”

“When studying abroad, students have to step out of their comfort zones,“ Aoki said. “They often return home with an increased sense of confidence and a new appreciation and respect for diversity. I try to encourage many of our graduating seniors to take a chance to do something a little different with their degrees. Many of our recent alums are at a unique point in their lives where they can take part in a program like Josh, Ashley and Louna did.”

Story by Daniele Frechette, intern, Marketing and University Communication.
Photos submitted.

Click thumbnails to enter slideshow view.

Study Abroad: Josh Dhuey with students in JapanStudy Abroad: Josh Dhuey with students in JapanStudy Abroad: Josh Dhuey with students in JapanStudy Abroad: Kristy Aoki, OIE adviser, and Prof. Clif Ganyard with UW-Green Bay students on a Japan travel course in 2008 Study Abroad: Louna Yang attending a sumo wrestling match in JapanStudy Abroad: Josh Dhuey with students in JapanStudy Abroad: Ashley Prest at the palace in Seoul, South KoreaStudy Abroad: Ashley Prest at the Universidad de Leon in SpainStudy Abroad: Ashley Prest with a friend in Aalborg, Denmark