Posted February 15, 2018
As the sun rises through the tall panes of glass in the castle walls, students begin to stir. As students rise, they peer into the Scottish mountainside. They observe the lush greenery as they prepare to undertake another day of field trips across Europe.
This is how sophomore Keely Johnson starts most mornings, but her classroom is not just a building – it’s most of Europe. Another key difference is the structure of her days.
“We have class all day (Monday through Thursday), but it’s only one class at a time because of the module-based class structure. We have one class for about six weeks then it switches to the next class for six weeks,” Johnson said. “While doing that we lecture and then go on trips around Scotland actually applying the content to our environment, which is exciting.”
Experience Scotland program associate Sonja Johnson said that if students have any desire to study abroad, it’s never too early to start looking into it. She said that the majority of students begin applying to study abroad as sophomores. She also said that 41 students from UWRF participated in the Experience Scotland program in 2017.
Of the 41 students who studied in Scotland, 32 were women. This follows the averages where 65-70 percent of students studying abroad are women and only 30-35 percent are men.
“No one seems to have a good reason why females study abroad more than males,” Sonja Johnson said. “But some people suggest that males have a different relationship with their campus; men are less likely to leave their friends, women leave to create new friendships.”
Sonja Johnson mentioned another theory where the major that males are typically studying tend to have less opportunity for study abroad. These are generally science and STEM fields.
According to the UWRF Study Abroad website, minimum requirements to participate in the program include being at least 18 years of age. Students must also be in good academic standing and have a minimum 2.25 GPA. Interested students are required to submit an online application.
Sonja Johnson said that the cost for the semester-long program is $8,500. She said that most students spend around an additional $3,500. This includes airfare, meals during the weekends and any additional travel students may participate in.
“We encourage them (students) to look at scholarship opportunities. They don’t just fall into your lap but they are out there,” Sonja Johnson said.
One of the most beneficial parts of the course is the opportunity to gain a different view into how the world is through travel.
“The world is a lot more connected than you know. Just being back here, this sounds bad, but I feel a lot more claustrophobic here because I can’t travel as easily,” senior Jordan Andres said. “Like flying from Scotland to Spain that was maybe $70. Whereas here, flying to Chicago is $100.”
Additionally, students are exposed to different worldviews through their own classmates. Students from all 26 UW System campuses are eligible to participate. There are also a number of partnership schools, including Texas A&M Corpus Christi, that contribute to sending students to study abroad.
Graduate student Katie Stenroos said she had students in her classes from UW-River Falls, UW-Superior, Lake Superior State University and Murray State University.
Similarily, Stenroos also described how the trip changed her viewpoint through experiencing another culture in person.
“Seeing another part of the world made me more globally informed. You pay more attention when you actually live there.”
Stenroos fell in love with studying abroad so much that she is now a Peer Advisor at the Office of International Education. Her advice for students was simple: “You will most likely not have an opportunity to spend 3 1/2 months without worrying about a job or family or kids. Experience it while you can.”