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Eagles Soaring Throughout the World is a spotlight on EWU Education Abroad Alumni offering their insights on the Power Education Abroad:
Education Abroad Helps Create a Path for Success and Personal Growth: A 10-Year Reflection
by Michael Watts
I cannot believe it has been almost ten years since I first studied abroad. For many students, the idea of education abroad—or even going somewhere foreign—comes with it a myriad of thoughts, images, opportunities, misconceptions, and of course, challenges. I can say this educational experience has significantly influenced not only my career and life choices these last ten years, but it changed how I understand and interpret the world.
I graduated with my BA in International Affairs from Eastern Washington University (EWU). The study abroad program I participated in was a one-year Japanese language program at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies in Kobe, Japan. This program was great in that it allowed me to take Japanese language classes and other courses that focused on topics such as international business and global issues. The most influencing factor of this experience was simply the pure cultural immersion and living somewhere I was not used to; essentially, practicing the adage of “getting out of your comfort zone.” It is one thing to study a new language in a class setting. Yet, when you study language, you also study and learn about the culture and heritage of people. From this experience alone, I became increasingly interested in how people communicate. More specifically, how people communicate across cultures. So, after completing my undergraduate degree, I immersed myself again and taught English for a few years overseas. After gaining some work experience, I went back to school and got my master’s degrees in communication studies and public administration from EWU. Now, a lot has happened since I graduated, but one thing is for sure, all my life and career choices thus far have had a global and international focus that I credit to my first study abroad experience. For example, because of my international experience and interest in global studies, I was able to complete multiple internships with the U.S. Department of State. I learned a lot about U.S. sponsored educational exchange programs, foreign policy, and how the United States trains its foreign service professionals.
So, what am I doing now you may ask? Well, my life and career choices once again have been influenced by education abroad. I am now currently teaching at a university in Tokyo while working on my doctorate in global studies in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a current teacher and education practitioner, it is my goal to help students from all over the world understand the current issues, topics, and questions that bring us together. Ideally, to help foster a sense of global citizenship and community.
Finally, for those reading this, education abroad is more than just “a fun semester” overseas. It is a chance to learn a new language, gain independence, and develop cultural sensitivity. More importantly though, it allows for critical self-reflection and the questioning of deep held beliefs and your own positionality in the world. Take this as an opportunity to learn, grow, and become the best, most compassionate and tolerant person you can be. The world needs this now more than ever.
Degree: B.S. Journalism
2013 EWU Graduate
Workplace: Digital Turbine
Job title: Digital Marketing Analyst
My name is Kelly Manalo and I studied abroad in Norwich, England summer 2012 at University of East Anglia. I was there for the summer Olympics and got to cheer on Team USA women’s soccer team. I studied communication law with students from 8 different countries and 5 different continents. The summer I studied abroad I gained confidence traveling solo to three different countries and since then I have traveled to a total of 17 countries.
At uni (Brits slang for university), we debated about how different cultures and countries interpret the impact of American social media, culture and communication. We discussed how the United States’ freedom of speech influences how information is shared globally and how that sometimes contends with other cultures. These conversations helped me remain cognizant of others’ diverse understandings and interpretations.
Currently, I work in digital marketing for a global technology company called Digital Turbine. I work in tandem with co-workers from everywhere—Israel, Mexico, Germany, Australia, India and more. My exposure studying abroad has helped me come to work with a truly global company who caters to everyone, everywhere both externally and internally. It’s beautiful and I appreciate the opportunity to have my passion for travel and culture have a place in my work life.
by Anette Vyakhk
I don't come from a typical American family, my parents were immigrants from Estonia with 16 kids. My whole childhood involved significant sacrifices both financially and physically. Despite my upbringing, my dreams were vivid "I wanted to travel the world".
I entered Eastern’s study abroad office in my sophomore year with one goal in mind "to travel". At the time I had little knowledge of what I could achieve, but that all changed when I met Elena the study abroad advisor that made my dreams a reality. Not once but twice with her assistance, I chose to further my education in South Korea. Before departing for my first trip abroad I applied for the Gilman Scholarship, the application process was tedious and time-consuming. However, I received step-by-step guidance from the study abroad office and I became a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship.
What I've gained from my studies abroad
The biggest benefit of living internationally has been educational and professional growth. The opportunity to work with other international students in a classroom setting provided me with a new level of respect and understanding of different cultures. In addition, opportunities to travel the world became accessible. I have been able to visit the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand and I do not plan to stop. One of the biggest benefits of international study has been the connections gained along the way. I have met the most diverse group of people from all over the world, some that have become a great asset to me. As an international business student, my goals post-graduation become clear after returning to the states I wanted to work in the travel industry. Despite the opportunities available I decided to take a big risk and start my own company. With the help of my two business partners, I became a co-owner of Navigated LLC, a travel consulting firm that specializes in customizable travel packages. I have been able to use the skills I learned abroad in establishing Navigated and I’m excited to see it grow. I can not imagine what my life would have been like if I never took the opportunity to study abroad and I hope other Eastern students realize how life changing and beneficial it is.
The Travels of Adam Stewart
Travel has been a passion of mine ever since my first trip abroad in 2010 to Australia. I believe it’s an essential and vital part of the EWU college experience because it opens up a world of opportunities not just within your career but within life as well. As we strive for a more inclusive world education abroad bridges the gap between people, communities and nations.
I’m currently living in the Seattle Area and recently worked for a Destination Marketing Organization promoting tourism in the South Seattle region. In 2019, I lived abroad and studied at the university of Westminster in London to earn my master’s degree in tourism management. Before deciding to pursue graduate school abroad, I was working in hospitality and international student recruitment for over 5 years. Currently, I have travelled to 22 different countries and I have experiencing working and studying in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
At a young age I knew I had always wanted to study marketing but never knew my focus until I went abroad. I had never thought about going abroad until watching a travel show one night and wondering what it would be like to see this place or live there. The next day I spoke with the study abroad advisor and the rest is history.
My first time going abroad was a 6-month semester at the university of Canberra in Australia. I was in my junior year of college and my major was marketing so I took marketing classes that would count towards my graduation. Everything was so different at first and sort of difficult to understand but I was excited to learn everything I could about the people, culture and way of living. It was such a memorable experience and I’ll never forget it.
My second trip abroad was a 6-month internship for a coffee company in Ireland doing social media and marketing. This position helped me get a job working in international student recruitment. I think working and living abroad provides a unique perspective versus just studying. It allows you to be creative, see new ways of doing things and be open to new ideas. It also immerses you in a different way of living than you’re used to. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and beginning to understand them on a deeper level.
My experiences abroad have definitely had an impact in my life and career because they have given me opportunities not just within my country but also abroad. With my job in hospitality I got the opportunity to learn about different parts of the USA. I helped people plan their vacations and create these memorable experiences for them. During my time in international student recruitment I was able to travel to different countries and meet with people from all over the world. A dream job I never knew existed but if it wasn’t for my education abroad, I never would have known about it.
As I am making and creating my own experiences, I hope to do the same for others through marketing and travel because I know how life changing it can be. Education abroad breaks down barriers and connects people to each other. It embraces the differences we have among us and does not divide us because of them.
The Transformational Experiences of Study Abroad Programs at EWU
Submitted by Dr. Torres Garcia, EWU McNair DirectorIt has been a pleasure to meet remarkable students at Eastern Washington University (EWU) whose academic goals and aspirations are enriched and transformed into realities and who have left their mark at EWU while completing their undergraduate studies. Ms. Amy Núñez is one of these students who came from Yakima, WA to EWU. She affirmed to have benefited from different EWU programs, resources, and educational experiences as she reached her academic goal-- to be a superintended. Now, Ms. Núñez is hoping to become a faculty member at a higher education institution. She credits the Chicano Studies, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program, her participation in MEChA and Ballet Folklorico, and the great opportunity to travel outside the US in an EWU study-abroad program to Cuba (EWU Goes to Cuba!) for transforming her life. It is cliché to mention that it takes a village to raise a student, but it does. It all begins with this impactful experience to travel abroad. “Being able to travel abroad to Cuba along with six other students and four professors has been the most memorable experience during my time at EWU," Ms. Núñez shared.
It was December 2012, when Ms. Núñez took her first trip outside the U.S. in an EWU School of Global Learning (SGL) Faculty-Led Program and visited Cuba to study their education system. According to Ms. Núñez, “as first-generation, low-income student I would never imagine the possibility of traveling abroad nevertheless going to Cuba. This trip was filled with many unforgettable experiences that I will cherish for a lifetime, including my first time traveling with a group of students to conduct research, the first time walking on the beach, exploring a different culture, hiking in the mountains, visiting an organic farm, and going to a professional baseball game."
In this quote, it is apparent the significant impact this study abroad had on Ms. Núñez; these are among the many benefits student who participate in the EWU SGL are expected to gain from participating in its programs. Among the many objectives of SGL is to increase the opportunities for students to grow and provide meaningful connections with other as they travel around the world that can assist students like Ms. Núñez develop social and professional skills that will assist her career. Approximately 100 students travel abroad each year through SGL at EWU. The following quote by Ms. Núñez illustrate the significance of the relationships she was able to develop with faculty and her peers. “One of the most rewarding experiencing was the opportunity to form lifelong friendships with the students on the trip and getting to know our professors at a more personal level outside the university. We were very fortunate to have Dr. Joseph Lenti, Dr. Christina Torres García, Dr. Martin Meráz García, and Dr. Robert Dean join us on this journey to share their expertise, guide us through our research, and most importantly I appreciated the amount of work they put into organizing this trip. Ms. Núñez participation in this EWU SGL Faculty-Led Program was shared with KYRS Thin Air Community Radio and the Spokane Community through public forums.
As a faculty assisting on leading a study abroad program, this experience can be transformational for faculty in many ways as well. For example, to witness the remarkable growth in students’ self-confidence and self-efficacy, to build strong relationships with faculty across discipline, and connect class discussion on study abroad experiences are among few benefits a faculty can received from such experience. The SGL study abroad programs are not just transforming the lives of EWU students but having ripple effects in our faculty and EWU community as a whole. Ms. Núñez’ story is similar to many other students we currently serve and we can begin transform their lives and supporting them to embark in a study abroad experience!