Study Abroad Symposium allows students to share stories

Kassie Mitchell, Trenton Ackerman and Jenna Woosley give presentations on how to maximize your study abroad experience. “When packing for my trip I ended up packing way too much,” Ackerman said on March 28, 2015 at the Kincely Conference Center during the the Study Abroad symposium. Ashley Cooper/HERALD


Students, faculty and staff regaled listeners with experiences of national and international studies as a part of the Kentucky Study Abroad Symposium.  

WKU hosted the event in the Knicely Conference Center to share the stories of students, faculty and staff from around the state who have had the opportunity to study abroad or study away. 

The Study Away office sponsored the event on March 28, and which is in its fourth year. Erin Greunke, the coordinator for faculty-led study abroad programs, first organized the event as a part of her graduate school thesis in 2010. 

“It’s been really neat to see it, over the last four years, continue on,” Greunke said. 

The event involved students and faculty members from universities across Kentucky who studied internationally or domestically. At the symposium, speakers gave 15-minute presentations about the impact their experiences had on their academic careers and personal lives. 

The event’s presenters consisted of individuals whose programs occurred  somewhere between fall 2012 and winter 2015. Greunke said she believes presenting at the symposium is a valuable aspect of the “re-entry process.” 

The presentations covered a variety of topics that ranged from itinerary planning to cultural assimilation. 

KaSandra Mitchell, a senior in public relations at WKU, talked about her experiences in Costa Rica and Ecuador. She also spoke about how studying abroad is a way of “investing in humanity.” 

“I don’t believe you can travel anywhere and not change somehow from it,” she said. “Some of these programs have the potential to restore your faith in humanity.” 

Mitchell said she enjoyed participating in the conference because it allowed scholars to share the similarities between their programs. 

“You get to see what people from all different backgrounds got from their programs, and that most of them want to pay it forward and help other people experience the same kinds of things,” Mitchell said.

Greunke said she thinks it’s important that students bring the information they learned from their time off campus back to the Hill. 

“For those students who get the opportunity to study abroad or study away, I think it’s important that they’re able to bring it back and share their experiences in the context of the classroom,” Greunke said.

Elise Nicole Wells, a senior from Eastern Kentucky University and conference presenter, said she believes a greater cultural understanding is important. 

“I think, especially in Kentucky, not many people really leave and get to have these experiences,” she said. “I think that learning to communicate and appreciate people from different backgrounds is important.” 

Joshua Meltzer, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting at WKU, was the event’s keynote speaker. He spoke about the long-term impact his experiences in Mexico as a Fulbright scholar had on his career

“It [studying abroad] sets [students] up with a long term relationship with that country, to visit on their own, to bring their family and friends there, to pay attention to what’s going on there, to be aware of the politics and struggles that are going on in different places,” Meltzer said.