Students find study abroad to be a rewarding excursion

The learning abroad center offers 220 programs in more than 60 countries.

While hiking on a thin trail in Costa Rica last semester, torrential downpours hit as plant biology junior Deren Eaton and other students worked together to cross a river by foot.

Battling the current, they created a human wall and a handful of them dug their feet in the mucky river bottom and passed group members across one by one.

The result: just another successful river crossing.

These adventures were common for people like Eaton, who participated in the Council on International Educational Exchange study abroad program in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

With study abroad deadlines for fall semester approaching, study abroad officials are looking at how teachers market the importance of an experience abroad.

According to last year’s study abroad year-end report, 75 percent of College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences seniors said their professors mention study abroad during class, compared with the 56 percent average Twin Cities campus response.

This year’s survey will be released in the coming weeks.

For Eaton, studying abroad was a “cultural experience.”

“It’s something you cannot get (at the University),” he said.

Monteverde contains large orchid populations that provide plant biology and soil science students the opportunity to study fungi in the roots of orchids as well as the soil that helps them flourish.

Despite the learning opportunities, dangerous terrain kept students cautious.

Students took seminars about survival skills and dangers of the area and shortly thereafter learned the importance of those lessons.

Eaton said that one night he was bitten by a snake while running barefoot to his cabin. When his condition worsened, he said, his professor took him to a hospital for treatment.

Six hours later when he reached a hospital, the snake-bitten foot swelled and was bleeding profusely. He said little venom penetrated his foot so he did not lose any appendages.

Physiology senior Frances Maybach studied abroad her freshman year in Greece and said it benefited her education.

“I wanted to take Latin to learn medical terms,” she said. “Every minute you’re abroad, you’re learning something new.”

University Study Abroad adviser Thuy Doan said CIEE is only one program that offers programs in those areas, she said.

The opportunities include studying marine biology in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles and agroecology in Santiago, Chile.

“Different programs have different ways to tailor to students’ needs,” Doan said.

Bill Ganzlin, coordinator of the Environment and Natural Resources Program, is taking students on a guided trip through Norway during May session. Students have the opportunity to study the natural history of the country.

Studying abroad still isn’t for everyone. Chemical engineering junior Jon Seppelt said it was too hard with his major and there was not enough time.

But for some, the adventure is worth it.

“You had to be ready to get dirty,” Eaton said. “By the end of our trip, everyone wasn’t afraid to get dirty.”

Freelance Editor Emily Kaiser welcomes comments at [email protected]