Sharing Students, Scholars, Knowledge across Borders Benefits Many
International Education Week at UNC Nov. 18-22 celebrates the benefits of the sharing of students, scholars and knowledge across borders. The Center for International Education, the event's sponsor, provides programs and services for students and faculty who want to learn or teach abroad, and for international students studying at UNC. Here are some of their stories.
Studying Abroad in the Czech Republic
Zachary Herzog, a junior Business Administration major, last spring semester visited the Czech Republic, where he attended an internationally accredited business school in Prague.
Herzog said that as a result of his study abroad experiences, he gained a new appreciation for his degree and the business world in general. The experience allowed him to compare business practices between the United States and Europe.
He said that the greatest benefit of the study abroad program is the changed perspectives that occur within yourself and the world.
"You begin to see yourself as a global citizen and to summon abilities you never realized you had," Herzog said.
Once he returned home, Herzog noticed he had more self-confidence and a more relaxed attitude about life.
As a result of his study abroad experience, Herzog has applied for international internships.
Studying Abroad in South Korea
Tyler Sherman, a senior Biological Sciences major, studied in South Korea during fall semester last year.
Sherman said the greatest challenges of studying abroad were getting all the necessary paperwork in order and staying organized in a foreign environment.
"The greatest benefit about the study abroad program is that it diversifies the way you look at people," Sherman said. "The language barrier puts you into situations where you really have to find a solution when you aren't used to being out of that comfort zone. It's an experience everyone should have."
Although he originally didn't plan on going to South Korea, Center for International Education staff told him that it was a great place to go and he's glad he listened to them.
One of the highlights of his experience was visiting Jeju, an island off the south coast known as the "Hawaii of South Korea." Despite the language barrier, he found the islanders helpful and welcoming.
His advice to anyone traveling abroad is to "be yourself, wherever you go," and to embrace the traits that make different cultures unique. He emphasizes not to underestimate the kindness of strangers and to be appreciative of one's own culture.
A Faculty Member's Perspective
In addition to semester-long study-abroad experiences, UNC's Center for International Education offers intensive, short-term (three to six weeks) international academic experiences led by UNC faculty during winter and spring break, and the summer.
Associate Professor of Geography Karen Barton, co-presenter of International Education Week's keynote address on Tuesday, will share stories from her travels abroad and the lessons gleaned from those experiences.
Barton has taught at UNC since 2005 and has led several intensive study abroad courses to different parts of the world.
"The main purpose of these trips is to simply expose students to these other locations," Barton said. "We're providing short-term opportunities for students who can't afford to do something more expensive."
Barton said she loves to lead the trips to Nicaragua. With only 15 students, the group has the freedom to explore unplanned destinations. By returning every other year, Barton can develop partnerships with the Nicaraguan people.
During the 2014 spring semester, she'll lead students to Nicaragua for a course titled "Fish, Farms and Food" that focuses on sustainable agriculture and food production. She'll also lead a course to Morocco in June 2014.
Observations from an Iraqi Grad Student
Bebak Hamad is an exchange student from Kurdistan, a region in northern Iraq. He arrived in the United States in January 2012 to pursue his master's degree in Literature at UNC using a scholarship from a U.S. State Department program designed to help with the redevelopment of the worn-torn country.
Hamad said the greatest cultural differences between the U.S. and Iraq that he's noticed are in the social dynamics. As examples, he noted that Americans place a more significant amount of value on timeliness, and that the relationship between American parents and children is generally very different, including the amount of independence and individualism exerted by children.
"In Iraq," Hamad said," "if there is a problem, the whole family gets involved."
Hamad said he misses his family and friends, but through his experience as an exchange student, he's learned to depend on himself.
- Alyse DeVan, Senior Journalism Major
• Center for International Education website
• UNC International Education Week schedule
• Photos by students studying abroad
Sampling of previous stories about students' international experiences
• Experiencing Egypt
• Expedition Yucatan
• State Department Scholarships Allow UNC Students to Study Abroad
• A Story of Hope
• Cycling Saudi Student Seeks Return to Racing
• Family Matters to New Graduates
Sampling of previous stories about faculty's international experiences
• Mapping UNC Research
• Music: The Universal Language
• College of Education Dean Recognized by Thailand University
• Professor to Present at United Nations Crime Congress