Upon graduation from Butler University, students are given a survey with questions like, “What was the best thing you did at Butler?” and “What do you regret not doing at Butler?” One of the most popular answers to both questions is the same—study abroad.
Around 40 percent of Butler students study abroad during their four years, but why is study abroad such a popular experience?
Calie Florek is the study abroad advisor in the Center for Global Education, and is used to explaining that question. Aside from learning languages and seeing new places, she sees study abroad as an invaluable opportunity for students’ personal growth and seeing new perspectives.
“Students are talking to people from other locations, or from their host country, and having conversations about hot topic issues, where maybe they hadn’t previously seen things from the perspective that one of their international friends does,” Florek says. “Being able to communicate with others, even internationally, is something that the world needs today.”
Additionally, she says that many students return to Butler as more mature, worldly versions of themselves just by learning from their everyday experiences while abroad.
“If they are going on a weekend trip, and their flight gets delayed, they are learning flexibility and resilience just by going through that,” Florek says. “In something that they don’t think is teaching them skills, they are constantly learning things.”
While the majority of students choose study abroad locations in Europe or Australia, there are options for programs all over the world. Currently, Butler students are enrolled in programs in Iceland and Greenland studying climate change, on the island of Samoa studying Pacific Islander communities, and in Tanzania participating in service learning.
Senior Ari Gerstein is a Finance and Management Information Systems double major who studied abroad in Hong Kong last semester on an exchange program.
Gerstein says he picked Hong Kong because he wanted to experience a place where he may not be able to travel to after graduation. Gerstein says that his decision paid off, and that traveling around Asia to places like China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand was an amazing experience.
“I think I gained cultural awareness and a better understanding of Asian culture. It is so foreign to us, especially with the expansion of China today and how big a role they play in the world economy, it was interesting to be there and experience it first hand,” Gerstein says. “It was also amazing traveling and appreciating the beauty of the world; there are so many amazing places and it has really enhanced my admiration for traveling”
Gerstein was uncertain if he would be able to study abroad during the semester because he needed to take major-specific courses, and because he is on the tennis team and was unsure if he could remain on the team if he went abroad.
His exchange program allowed him to take finance and MIS classes, and he was even able to practice tennis with local players in Hong Kong and play in tournaments like the Hong Kong National Tournament.
“I would say you should 100 percent study abroad,” Gerstein says. “You have eight semesters in college, so to give up one of them to go do something incredible, I think everyone should go.”
And Butler has been working to make sure that it is a possibility. The Center for Global Education, as well as individual colleges, have been planning and networking to make sure that students will have opportunities to study abroad, no matter their area of study.
Bill Templeton is a Professor and the Associate Dean of the Lacy School of Business. He says that when he was in school, study abroad opportunities were more limited to students studying the arts or studying language. During his time at Butler, Templeton has been responsible for the international efforts of the Lacy School of Business and has made connections with accredited business schools around the world so that business students will have opportunities to study abroad, something that he highly encourages.
“I think it is really important for business students, because nearly all business these days is global in nature,” Templeton says. “Students nearly always find that such an experience changes their perspective dramatically, and that they come to appreciate different cultures and different ways of looking at the world.”
Where previously it may have been difficult for students to stay on track with their major if they studied abroad later in their college career, now students can take high-level business classes at partner schools across the globe.
Thanks to open international doors, the Lacy School of Business alone sends over 60 students every year on study abroad programs. Templeton says he is excited for students who partake in study abroad, not only for the worthwhile addition to their college experience, but also for how it can help them after graduation.
“In the Lacy School, we have a rate of study abroad that is astronomical compared to national averages,” Templeton says. “When the interviewer has studied or worked abroad then the value of that in the student’s resume just skyrockets because they know what they got out of the experience and they know how important it is to their perspective of business and the world.”
Other schools within Butler also have programs for students eager to study abroad and learn within their discipline.
Jane Gervasio, Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Nutrition in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, leads a trip for a group of students studying nutrition to Florence, Italy, where they learn and observe first-hand the Mediterranean diet and the history, culture, and health benefits that are associated with it. Taking the classroom on-site to teach students is something that Gervasio always enjoys.
“We know that active learning is part of the experience,” Gervasio says. “[We have the] opportunity to introduce them to this world and to really focus on an area, because the experience is based on us studying it in a classroom, but now they have the opportunity to interact with it hands on.”
Siena Amodeo is a senior Development Management major who studied abroad during the summer after her first year through the Fulbright United States-United Kingdom exchange program at the University of London.
Amodeo says one of the most interesting parts of the program was the diversity that she experienced while in London.
“I was in a classroom with students from all around the world,” Amodeo says. “It wasn’t just English people, there were people from all over Europe as well as China and Latin America.”
Coming into college, Amodeo says that she knew she was interested in studying abroad, but that her summer program in London confirmed that interest. Now she has been accepted into the London School of Economics and will be moving back to London after graduation.
“I had that experience and it had such a big impact on me,” Amodeo says. “This is the best experience I have ever had.”
Amodeo is not alone in that excitement. Ask one of the 400 students each year who study abroad, and you’ll probably hear the exact same answer.
Read Jackson’s personal account of studying abroad.