First-ever Illinois Abroad Day helps students cross borders

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By Robin Dean

Eight close friends. Four all-terrain vehicles. One unforgettable sunset in Santorini, Greece.

For most people, this is just an iconic scene from a coming-of-age film. But for Josh Seiter, a senior in Business, it was real life last semester.

“It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Seiter said.

Seiter, who has studied abroad three times throughout his entire college career, travelled to Bath, England, last semester. There, he took classes on Mondays and Tuesdays but spent most of his time connecting with the world around him. In addition to studying in Bath, he also had the opportunity to visit 15 various countries and 40 different cities, all of which he believes contributed to a career-furthering experience.

“I think every student should study abroad at least in some capacity,” Seiter said. “Having a global acumen is really important for any career.”

Bo White, Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange director, also believes studying abroad makes a significant impact on a student’s professional objective.

“It elevates your own profile,” White said. “It says that you can adapt and work with people from different backgrounds, which truly helps you go where you want to go.”

Therefore, in hopes of building a brighter career path for University students, the Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange office has collaborated with various colleges on campus to host the first Illinois Abroad Day. This Tuesday, students are invited to join this campus-wide event that aims to inform others of what it truly means to study abroad. With various study abroad advocates to speak with and workshops to attend, Illinois Abroad Day is filled with activities that expand the knowledge of those who participate.

“What we hope students experience is to get accurate information that would take down the barriers that they think exist and make them believe that studying abroad is truly possible,” White said.

Students are then invited to assemble for a keynote lecture by award-winning author Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, who will explain how to integrate studying abroad within a career path.

”In a global economy, which you can instantly communicate with somebody anywhere in the world, we firmly believe that Illinois students need to learn how to navigate cultures, navigate new ideas and navigate new ways of thinking,” White said.

Michelle Saunders, junior in ACES, said that studying abroad not only furthers someone’s career aspirations, but enhances their own self-being.

“It allows you to go out of your comfort zone and figure out who you are outside of your normal environment,” Saunders said.

This past summer, she travelled to southern France, where she was able to take various agricultural classes and participate in an internship. She said that living with a host family and not being familiar with the French language allowed her to embrace the unique situation and acquaint herself with the culture.

“I have always been kind of a shy person, but you can’t be shy going to a foreign country,” Saunders said, “Studying abroad has allowed me to gain a lot of self-confidence.”

With over 400 options in over 60 different countries, the campus study abroad program allows students to customize their education and enrich their global awareness.

“If you’re doing nothing then that is exactly what you will get when you are handed your diploma,” White said. “What we are offering students is a legitimate option for them to do something remarkable.”

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