When study abroad advisor Julie Kiefer attended the University of Indianapolis as an undergraduate, she took two international Spring Term trips before studying abroad for a full semester. Kiefer said her first Spring Term trip fostered her love of traveling and studying abroad. Since her first trip, Kiefer has been to all seven continents.
“One of the things that really attracted us [my husband and me] was that we really both love to travel,” Kiefer said. “He proposed in Sicily; [we] got married in the Virgin Islands, and our honeymoon was in Antarctica.”
Before she began working at UIndy, Kiefer was a teacher for 10 years. She said that all of the jobs she has gotten have been a result of her time studying abroad.
According to Kiefer, her experience traveling stands out on her resume and makes it more competitive. A common interview question often involves how the applicant interacts with other cultures, and Kiefer said she can answer this by explaining what she did while studying abroad.
“I would ask them why [they hired me]. They said it [studying abroad] made me stand out above the crowd,” she said. “I remember I had one employer say, ‘When you talked about your study abroad experience, you had a twinkle in your eye that other people didn’t have.’ I always remembered that they said that.”
When Kiefer and her husband both have vacation time, they travel around the world. This allows Kiefer to visit many of the places where she advises students to go. Recently, Kiefer went to Ireland. While she was there, she visited three of the universities at which UIndy students can study. Later this year, Kiefer and her husband plan to visit Prague, a destination where UIndy students are studying for the semester.
Junior human resource management major Megan Robinson said Kiefer is a big help when planning a study abroad trip. Robinson went on a Spring Term trip this May to France, Spain and Italy. This was Robinson’s first time traveling internationally, and she went with a group from UIndy.
“I felt safer,” she said, “because if I were to have gone by myself, I would have been more hesitant. But we had three professors with us, and I just felt like they’re there, and they’re going to help us understand what’s going on.”
The group had a tour guide meet them when they landed in France and stay with them the entire time, according to Robinson. She said the trip opened her eyes to different cultures and changed her perspective on the world and on traveling.
“It’s a short term, so if you’re working over the summer, you just have that 10 days. You can hit all these spots with these cool tour guides, and you get to learn about so much stuff that is deeper than the surface,” Robinson said. “Another benefit is that you can experience another culture and not be so timid, by not knowing their language and not knowing how to do things. With this little taste test, you get a little feel of how everything is run when you have professors there. So [you can see] this is what you do in their culture and not be disrespectful in a lot of ways.”
While Robinson enjoyed her trip, she said that she felt it was too short, and she wished she had slowed down and thought about her decision more. Robinson does plan to study abroad again, this time during the summer.
“I would have not studied abroad in my Spring Term. I would have done it for my semester, just because I did pay too much when I could have gone for a month,” Robinson said. “I wish I [had] kind of dug a little bit deeper before I jumped in because I wanted to go internationally and wanted to know how it was.”
Sophomore anthropology major Jordan Borden traveled internationally for the first time when he studied abroad over the summer in Maynooth, Ireland. He said he was nervous before he went, but that he overcame his anxiety.
“As soon as we got, probably, into England that night, they [the feelings of nervousness] just vanished,” Borden said, “Because as soon as we touched down on foreign soil, my brain kind of went, ‘We’ve done the hardest part of this; now we get to do the rest.’ So nerves hit you, but I was able to go through it.”
While Borden was in Ireland, he was able to explore the city on his own, visit a few museums, take class trips and study “Anthropology of Ireland”, a course that covered his regional credit within his major. When students take a summer term abroad, they can receive credit for their local/global courses, unless they are a nursing major, and whatever courses they complete abroad, according to Kiefer.
Borden learned a lot about the Irish people and how they view themselves. He said they also were some of the nicest people he has ever met, and he would definitely go back.
“Once you get bit by the travel bug, you kind of have to do it again to satisfy yourself and satisfy this urge that you suddenly feel to get out, to do more,” Borden said. “And I’ve always felt the need to travel outside of the United States, so definitely I’d do this again.”
Kiefer said that, ideally, everyone should do a summer or semester abroad because that allows him or her to be fully immersed in the culture for an extended period of time.
There is a misconception that certain majors and athletes cannot study abroad, according to Kiefer, but if students are busy during the semester, they can use their summer to study abroad. For students who do have time during the semester, however, senior human biology major Grace Buck said she would recommend spending the full semester abroad.
Buck studied last year in Seville, Spain. While there, she took five courses and visited nine countries. Buck traveled internationally prior to her trip abroad and wanted to study abroad since high school.
“Being in my Spanish classes and [hearing] those professors talking about their experiences, and seeing all of the pictures and seeing the places they got to go and how they became more familiar with different cultures,” Buck said. “I just have always loved to travel. I’ve traveled a lot to begin with, so I just knew that I wanted to see more of the world. Once I get a big girl job, that won’t be [as easy].”
Buck said that it was difficult for her at first because she was very homesick, but she was able to plan trips and track milestones, which helped. She said one thing she wished she had known before she went was how her preferences differed from the Spanish culture.
“They sleep in until 11 [a.m.] and then stay up until 6 or 7 in the morning, and that is very unlike me,” Buck said. “They have a really big nightlife, and this probably makes me sound lame, but that is just not me…. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just not very me. So I would have picked something that I was more used to doing.”
Kiefer said there are five major study abroad experiences that students prefer: Seville in Spain, Edgehill in England, Maynooth in Ireland, Prague in the Czech Republic and various international internships.
Students who take international internships get internship credit through Truman State University and can go almost anywhere. Kiefer sits down with students to discuss their ideal internship and location. After they apply, they will find out if they are accepted to the program and their placement.
Senior international business major Pedro Martinez took an internship abroad last year and worked in the accounting department of a logistics company in Valencia, Spain. Martinez said he would work everyday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“From 2 to 4 [p.m.], businesses are closed, and they go out to eat. So we would have that time to go out to eat. But my day was done at 2 [p.m.] because they didn’t need me after that,” Martinez said. “So you go out to eat and then for the rest of the day, I’d either go work out every day or go to the bar with my friends or try to do something that got me out of the house.”
According to Martinez, living on a small budget was difficult at first, and he ended up skipping meals to go out to bars with friends. While in Spain, Martinez also was able to travel around and said the best place he visited was the Vatican. He would recommend international travel to anyone who is interested and said that, if necessary, it is worth making a few financial sacrifices.
Kiefer said many people worry that the cost will keep them from studying abroad, but there are many scholarships and grants available for interested students.
Coordinator for Adult Financial Aid Services Laura Przybylinski works with the Office of Study Abroad to help make sure students can pay for their travels.
Przybylinski said that Kiefer sends her an estimate of how much tuition, room and board will cost, and then she checks to see if the student’s aid will cover any of it.
“For semester-long study abroad programs, students can use their federal money. They can use their Pell Grant, if they’re eligible,” Przybylinski said. “[They can use] any federal student loans, so the Direct Stafford Loan, the one that’s in the student’s name, [or] the parent-plus loans. They can do private loans, too, if they want to. And if they’re state eligible, so the 21st Century, the Frank O’Bannon Freedom of Choice Award. They can use that if they’re eligible for it, but that just goes towards their tuition when they’re studying abroad. They can’t use it for room and board.”
Przybylinski also helps students find what kind of loans they can take out. She said the most important thing is to plan ahead, and the more money a student can save, the less he or she will have to rely on loans.
Przybylinski and the students said that the best place to start when deciding to study abroad is to meet with Kiefer. Kiefer’s office is located in the Schwitzer Student Center, room 208, and she can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.