Students travel, study on global initiatives


By Douglas Esser
If you’re a study abroad student and University of Washington Bothell is Point A, then Point B could be just about anywhere in the world.

Getting from Point A to Point B, you take feelings of hope and anticipation. When you return you’ve picked up an expanded view of the world, new skills in intercultural communication, proven flexibility and confidence, not to mention credits that count toward your degree.

UW Bothell will have 117 students studying abroad this summer and early fall — the most popular time for students to study abroad, says Natalia Dyba (right), director of global initiatives in the Office of Academic Affairs.

Currently, 8.5 percent of UW Bothell undergraduates study abroad, which is below the national average of about 10 percent, according to the Open Doors report published annually by the Institute of International Education. But, UW Bothell has a goal of reaching 15 percent during the 2019-20 academic year.

“The ones who go find it’s really a worthwhile experience,” Dyba says. “It helps them find focus in their studies or develop new interests.”

Research shows students who study abroad are more like to graduate and more likely to graduate on time, likely because they become more engaged with school, says Dyba.

Along with the variety of destinations, there are a number of programs that give students options for staying abroad as briefly as a couple of weeks or a long as a quarter or more. Hybrid programs blend class time on campus with the shorter times out of country, says Dyba.

“That caters to students who have full-time jobs, who have family commitments, and it makes it possible for them to have an international opportunity without having to go for a whole quarter,” Dyba says.

This summer, 18 UW Bothell students will be spending two weeks in Guatemala in a hybrid service learning program designed with working-nurses in mind. More than 40 others will be spending four to five weeks in Italy, France, Spain and Mexico, studying with UW Bothell professors.

An intensive schedule allows students to earn a full quarter’s worth of credit in the summer. Destinations in early fall include Peru, Tanzania and Japan.

Finances are an obvious obstacle for studying abroad, but the University offers about 40 scholarships a year to UW Bothell students to help cover expenses. Those who receive funds become study abroad ambassadors when they return to campus.

Two current ambassadors planning to graduate next year are May Azcarraga (left), a transfer student interested in computer science and business, and Feruza Ghias (below, right), a society, ethics and human behavior major who went to Kyrgyzstan last year and plans to visit Sardinia this summer.

Azcarraga is from the Philippines originally and served a year in Korea during active duty with the Air Force. So, she has experience in Asia but never went to Europe before spending a month in Rome last summer. Visiting museums and other cultural experiences left her with a “sense of wonderment.”

“When I came here I was very strict with math and science,” she says. “It really introduced me to more of the visual and performance arts and enlightened me.”

Azcarraga is an ambassador for study abroad through her activities with the tri-campus Student Veterans Association.

Ghias stayed with a host family for two months in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, while she studied Russian, visited museums and even took a five-day mountain trek.

“It was a very intimate look into a different culture,” she says. “We talked a lot about politics and the freedoms we have here.”

The experience also changed her personally.

“I was a very reserved person,” she says. “In the study abroad I was with 20 other students from the United States. I opened up and we just talked and learned about each other.”

As an ambassador, she’ll share her experiences while working as a peer instructor in the sustainability living-learning community. But first she’ll spend a month in Sardinia this summer learning about the migration of Romani people.

“Traveling is really fun,” she says. “Once you do it, you really want to do it again.”

Read more about the Global Initiatives program.
Read more about study abroad ambassadors.
Read information about scholarships.

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