Week features study abroad

by Cati Vanden Breul

Becky Reckelberg said her favorite part of studying in Norwich, England last year was traveling to London to see the Big Ben clock tower – a trip she made three times.

The dentistry senior was one of thousands of University students to study abroad in 2006, which the U.S. Senate deemed the “Year of Study Abroad.”

This week, the University is highlighting the importance of studying abroad and the success of its programs on campus in celebration of International Education Week.

The University ranks seventh overall out of U.S. colleges for sending the most students abroad, according to the International Institute of Education’s annual report.

After living in England during spring semester, Reckelberg said she gained broader perspective.

“It was nice to see a bigger part of the world,” she said. “The world is bigger than Minneapolis.”

Traveling to Rome and London were the highlights of her experience, she said.

“Before I was concentrated on what was going on here, but there you meet people from different places with different views,” Reckelberg said.

She said she was able to finance the trip mostly with savings, but she also got a small scholarship from the Learning Abroad Center.

Lynn Anderson, the center’s associate director, said the amount the University gives out for study abroad scholarships has increased from $50,000 to nearly $500,000 in less than a decade.

“The scholarship pool has grown tremendously thanks to (University) central administration, different colleges and departments and individuals who have studied abroad and are giving back,” Anderson said.

Studying abroad helps students build more than just resumes, she said; it also helps them develop personally.

“The personal impact on students is enormous,” Anderson said. “They come back more mature and self-confident, and often have developed friendships with host nationals that will last through their lifetime.”

The skills students learn from being immersed in a different culture will make them more competitive when trying to land a job, said University Regent David Larson, the executive vice president of Cargill, a Minnesota-based agricultural services company. Larson spoke Wednesday at an event celebrating study abroad at the Carlson School of Management.

While in college, Larson, a University alumnus, studied in Mexico. He said the experience helped him become a better leader.

Leaders must have a sense of empathy that helps them connect with the people they hope to lead, Larson said. Today, companies are expanding globally, he said, and managers often have to know how to work with employees from other cultures.

“The kind of growth taking place in the third world is astounding,” Larson said, “So becoming culturally sensitive is extremely important.”

University Institute of Global Studies adviser Bryan Kuzel described his time living in Mexico and France to faculty and staff attending the event.

Kuzel, who was in France shortly after the war in Iraq began, said he was sometimes targeted and insulted for being American.

“I learned what it feels like to be in the minority,” he said.

But, despite the tension, he said the experience changed him for the better.

Kuzel said it helped him get hired at General Electric as an international projects manager, where he worked before becoming an adviser. He also met his wife in France.

The University’s goal is to have 50 percent of undergraduates study abroad before they graduate. Right now, Anderson said, the number is about 28 percent.