They are UW-Green Bay’s ambassadors to the far reaches of the world. A record 229 UWGB students traveled to 30 locations outside the United States in 2014-15. The most popular destinations — Cuernavaca, Mexico, Spain, Italy and South Africa. And 2015-16 enrollment numbers are just as promising.
UWGB’s Office of International Education (OIE) also helped International students navigate life in the United States, the unpredictable weather of Green Bay, and the culture shock of a foreign land. Those students came from 30 countries with nearly 25 percent of them from China, followed by Brazil, Germany, France, Japan and Canada.
Without the OIE, students who often are still learning English as a Second Language (ESL) would be incredibly challenged by instances sometimes even challenging for US residents — airport pick-up and academics, orientation, immigration, programming, financial and health insurance, taxes, driver’s licenses and more.
OIE professionals expect an equally busy year, having already enrolled about 45 new students, with applications still being accepted for 2015-16. New international students are picked up from Green Bay’s Austin Straubel airport on August 24 and 25 and orientation begins almost immediately.
“The students are exposed to community culture with a four-day orientation program designed around local events (Art Street, Farmers Market, Lambeau Field tour) and a trip to Door County,” OIE Student Coordinator Kristy Aoki says. “They also receive an overview of campus services, academic orientation and placement testing. Some international students arrived over summer and are already participating in a summer Intensive English Program.” The mentoring continues all year long and even after students leave UWGB.
“In some ways, we are always their connection to this country,” says Aoki. “The Office of International Education staff becomes an important point of contact for most incoming international students and outgoing study abroad students. Imagine moving to a new country and relearning a completely new system for just about everything from basic cultural norms and creating new friendships to navigating a new educational system, health care and immigration laws. Both studying abroad and international students are brave and courageous for taking the risk to try something new and truly step outside of their comfort zone.”
OIE staff members are rejuvenated by the impact these experiences make on the students they serve — both those that Study Abroad, and those that make UWGB their home for just a short time. Former International Student Niklas Haemer, native of Germany, was so moved by his experience, that he left this grateful post recently on the UWGB Facebook page:
“Unfortunately everything comes to an end and now it is time to leave something behind which has shaped my life a lot… I will never forget this time of my life…I want to thank the people who made this year unbelievably awesome.”
OIE Director Brent Blahnik says the outcomes for students in “mobility programs,” (both study abroad and international students) enrolled at UWGB — have impact beyond cultural competence.
“Studies show that students who study abroad improve their GPA’s and retain higher academic performance in the semesters following a sojourn abroad. Students report greater independence, self-confidence, and maturity; and they also develop skills needed for employment including an ability to problem solve and work through ambiguity,” Blahnik says. “Students learn how to thrive in diverse environments, improve foreign language skills, and take calculated risks. Further national studies show that students who study abroad have higher job placement rates in the 12 months following graduation (nearly double) and earn approximately $7,000 per year more than their peers who do not study abroad.”
Those who report back on their study abroad experiences often have similar themes: life-changing, priceless, confidence-building, but student Ben Freeman seemed to capture it best — “It’s only when you get away from everything you thought defined you that you truly discover who you really are.”