'Students get to learn through travel' with AU Study Abroad
Kayin McDonald enjoyed Italy so much that he returned for a second visit.
Carolina Amparo loved all the adventures of Japan so much that she also stopped in South Korea for even more adventure.
And Lyndsi Engels made so many new friends with people she didn’t know before traveling to Italy that she decided to do it again in Ireland.
These memorable experiences came courtesy of Ashland University’s Study Abroad program.
“Students get to learn through travel,” said Rebecca Parillo, director of Study Abroad at AU.
According to a recent post-study abroad survey Parillo conducted, 88% of the students who responded reported that their study abroad experience was valuable or very valuable to their education at AU.
Faculty-led tours where AU professors teach a class abroad are the most popular and “a great introduction to travel,” Parillo added.
“On these programs, students take a spring semester course, travel as a group in May, and complete a final project for that course based on what they learned abroad,” Parillo said.
Parillo said some of the highlights of AU Study Abroad travels include:
- On the upcoming College of Business and Economics Munich and Amsterdam tour, students will visit the Converse and Nike distribution plants in Amsterdam.
- The AU in Tuscany (Italy) program includes a service project, and last summer students helped at a nonprofit serving the local refugee population.
- The Navajo Immersion program in Arizona takes students to a modern medical facility that has traditional practices on its location, such as sweat lodges.
- The AU in Germany program will focus on World War II and the Holocaust, taking students to a concentration camp and key locations related to WWII.
During the 2022-23 academic year, 150 AU students traveled abroad through programs coordinated by the university, everything from summer trips to semester experiences to student-teaching offerings.
Ashland University has pre-approved programs in more than 38 countries where students receive credit for courses taken abroad that advance their AU academic program.
The university also has a Japan exchange program, where students spend a semester or academic year studying at a Japanese partner university for the same tuition cost as AU.
That was the program Amparo, a senior, took during spring semester 2023.
“I picked the study abroad program at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan, because of my international political studies major,” Amparo said. “Japan is a significant ally of the U.S., and I wanted to better understand Japan’s foreign policy considering current events in the Indo-Pacific. I also wanted to learn Japanese and explore the nation’s scenery.”
Amparo lived in a dorm with exchange students from all over the world and was able to do some sightseeing in Tokyo and Kyoto. During spring break, she traveled to South Korea with a good friend who was an exchange student at AU.
“I came to AU with the assumption that I would not be traveling,” Amparo said. “I am immensely grateful to Rebecca Parillo at the Study Abroad Office, and the Department of History and Political Science for their assistance and encouragement in doing something I never thought was possible.
“I would recommend studying abroad to everyone because it fosters personal development,” Amparo added. “Learning to live away from home strengthens character and makes a person more confident in their abilities to communicate and navigate unexpected situations.”
Like Amparo, Engels, a junior, came to AU thinking she would not be traveling, believing “that study abroad was too expensive and unrealistic.”
“Luckily, I overheard someone talking about the low costs of the Italy trip in my dorm hall,” Engels said. “After a single conversation with my parents, they immediately were impressed by the prices and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that I would get to experience.”
Before that summer trip after her freshman year, speaking to strangers was uncomfortable and friendships were hard to come by for her, Engels admitted.
“However, it did not take too long for that group of strangers to become life-long friends,” she said. “I remember doing Duolingo with the student sitting next to me on the plane, laughing at our ridiculous Italian pronunciations. I loved the Coliseum in Rome the most. I got to walk on the heart-breaking battle platform and zigzag through the wealthy marble stadium seats.”
Less nervous about traveling with people she didn’t know, Engels ventured to Ireland the summer after her sophomore year.
“I remember the warm welcome of the Maynooth University staff once we arrived,” she said. “I loved the Cliffs of Moher the most. The windy breeze and sounds of creatures against the gentleness of the water was truly magical.”
The nursing major has committed to AU’s Navajo Immersion program in Arizona in summer 2024 and will go on a mission trip through AU to the Dominican Republic in summer 2025.
McDonald, a junior, has even more study abroad trips planned: Spain with the AU jazz band and the university’s Germany trip in spring 2024, as well as a semester in Japan in spring 2025.
After going to Italy in summer 2022, McDonald went back this past summer because he said it was extremely affordable, and he wanted to go back and visit some of the sites with new people and with a greater understanding of their significance.
“Studying abroad wasn’t what I had in mind when coming to AU at first,” said McDonald, who has four majors (political science, international political studies, history and political economy) and four minors (religion, philosophy, classical civilizations and ethics). “But, within the first couple of months of learning about the robustness of the Study Abroad Office at Ashland University, I knew that it would be extremely beneficial to take advantage of.”