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Around the World

April 19, 2018
man sitting
Garrett Cruzan spent a year studying in the Netherlands and traveling to other countries.

Education abroad opportunities abound at UW. 

By Micaela Myers 

When Garrett Cruzan chose to study visual arts at the University of Wyoming, little did he know he’d soon visit some of Europe’s top museums during a year abroad at The Netherlands’ University College Utrecht, where he also took the opportunity to tour several other countries.

“I know what it feels like to celebrate on New Year’s Eve in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid; I’ve felt the chill of a windy January day on the Mediterranean in Marseille; I’ve drunk hot glüwein in a holiday market in Hamburg; and I’ve listened to the fountains of la Alhambra in Granada,” Cruzan says.

Life-changing is the term many students use to describe their time abroad. With an increasingly global economy and the United States making up just 4.4 percent of the world’s population, understanding other languages and cultures is an important part of a well-rounded college education. Each year, hundreds of UW students study abroad for a semester, a year or a couple of weeks in locations around the world.

UW’s Richard D. and Lynne V. Cheney Study-Abroad Scholarship Endowment is one of the largest land-grant university study-abroad scholarship endowments in the United States, which makes travel affordable for students. The trained staff in UW’s Education Abroad Office helps students choose from a variety of options, including exchanges, faculty-led courses and internships. On the following pages, four current students share their experiences overseas. 

Garrett Cruzan

“I was not after a semester of sightseeing or typical tourist attractions—I wanted the experience of living abroad,” says Cruzan, who is originally from Billings, Mont., and will graduate this May with his Bachelor of Fine Arts in art and a minor in disability studies.

He chose to spend the 2016–17 academic year at University College Utrecht, with the goal of fulfilling his art history requirements. “I was enamored with the idea that I could study art in a museum and not only from a book. Most art has been made to be experienced in person, and there really is no substitute for doing just that.”

Cruzan was invited to participate in a student-led honors course, which became his most meaningful experience abroad. “Nothing compares to being among such brilliant minds,” he says. “I learned some Spanish before using it in Spain (and Italy) and was allowed into some senior-level philosophy courses, where I had professors who profoundly affected how I see the world today.”

The Sheila Langlois Memorial Fellowship for Study Abroad in Art History and the Humanities helped Cruzan make the year abroad possible. A select number of Langlois Fellowships are offered—up to $10,000 per year. Named in honor of Sheila Langlois, an accomplished watercolorist, the fellowship was made possible through a generous donation in 2014 from her husband, Walter Langlois, UW professor emeritus in French.

“Walter Langlois wanted to make studying abroad a feasible option for students who might not otherwise be able to,” Cruzan says, adding that the fellowship is a unique asset to the university.

At UW, Cruzan is heavily involved on campus, including serving on the Accessibility Committee, as treasurer of the Abilities recognized student organization, as a member of the Student Art League and as co-founder and vice-chair of Paratransit Advisory Committee.

Cruzan, who uses a wheelchair, says his travels showed him that the Old World has some catching up to do in terms of access. For example, a Serbian friend told him that he should be prepared to accept help in ways he wasn’t used to when traveling to Budapest. “I could not have known what she meant then, but I came to know during fall break—entrust absolute strangers with my well-being,” Cruzan says. “In the absence of curb cuts, accessible metro cars, building entrances, boats, elevators and trolley cars, improvisation is required for someone in a wheelchair. There were times I was scared and uncomfortable, but that’s part of the experience for anybody. I always managed to get where I was going. Good Samaritans throughout Europe have me convinced that everyday people are genuinely kind. With the help of strangers, my wheelchair has traversed Roman streets made before Jesus, and sometimes I think we need more of that kind of reassurance.”

Cruzan’s experience in Europe was so positive that he hopes to return to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree. As a visual arts student, Cruzan’s work has been featured in a number of exhibits and received many awards. He plans to pursue post-baccalaureate opportunities in the UW Department of Art and Art History as he builds his portfolio for graduate school.

 

woman posing with ancient desert city behind her
Kaitlyn Emerson stops for a picture in Salamanca during her semester in Spain.

Kaitlyn Emerson

Kaitlyn Emerson of Cheyenne is majoring in Spanish language and literature, Spanish education and religious studies. She spent the fall 2016 semester in Spain, studying at the University of Salamanca and living with a host family.

“I like to tell people that it’s the best experience I’ve ever had,” she says. “It was life-changing.”

In addition to becoming more fluent in Spanish, Emerson met many new people and traveled to London, Morocco, the Canary Islands, Italy and throughout Spain.

She highly recommends staying with a host family. This experience allowed her to become fully immersed in the culture, to practice her language skills and to eat authentic cuisine prepared by her host mother.

Thanks to UW’s generous scholarship support, Emerson says her semester abroad was completely paid for.

A self-described introvert, Emerson had trouble making friends when she first came to the university, but her time abroad helped her become more outgoing. “It forced me to get out there and step outside my comfort zone,” says the study-abroad ambassador. 

The experience also helped her cement a career path: “I was climbing a volcano in the Canary Islands, and when I reached the top, we were above the clouds. That’s when I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I realized my passions.”

After graduation in 2020, Emerson plans to join Teach For America and help underrepresented and underprivileged students get the education they deserve. After that, she hopes to join the Peace Corps and earn her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. “I want to do that for a couple of years and then come back and teach English to incoming immigrants,” Emerson says.

During junior high and high school, Emerson took part in Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, a federally funded program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The program helped fund her education via a scholarship, and she has given back as a peer mentor.

“I help GEAR UP students acclimate to college life so they’ll be successful throughout their college career,” Emerson says. “I love the students I work with.”

She appreciates the personal touch UW offers its students. “UW seems to connect with their students and reach out to them,” she says. “I feel at home here.”

man pretending to lean on the Eiffel Tower
Slade Sheaffer posed with the Eiffel Tower during his faculty-led trip to Europe.

Slade Sheaffer

Faculty-led trips abroad allow students to take their learning to a new level—and location—while traveling with fellow UW students and earning credits. Laramie local Slade Sheaffer, who will graduate May 2019, chose UW for its scholarship opportunities and the chance to compete on the swimming team, but he never imagined that his architectural engineering coursework would allow him to sketch amazing architecture throughout Europe.

“We got to spend five days in Barcelona, 10 days in Paris and two weeks in London,” Slade says of his faculty-led trip, which also included visits to architectural firms. “The professors were great, and we got to see some globally renowned architectural sites up close and personal. It was an awesome experience, and we learned a lot.”

Slade is part of UW’s Undergraduate Engineering Research Scholars Program, and the program included funding for travel. Between that and the Cheney scholarship, the trip became very affordable.

“I want to become an architect after my master’s, and the trip affirmed it for me,” says Sheaffer, who is minoring in sustainability.

In addition to his rigorous engineering coursework, Sheaffer is a senior on the swimming team. “Having such a busy schedule teaches you to manage your time effectively,” he says. “It’s really grown me as a person. Between that and engineering, I think I’ll be really ready for the professional world.”

Sheaffer is president of UW’s Architectural Engineering Institute. He loves UW’s easy access to outdoor recreation, including mountain biking and climbing. These outdoor opportunities combined with the cost and UW’s low student-to-faculty ratio are its greatest strengths, Sheaffer says: “I’ve never had a problem getting help from my professors, and I know my professors really well. That’s been a huge drawing card. Plus, the affordability and scholarships—I’ll be able to exit my undergraduate degree with no debt. That will be very beneficial.”

woman balancing on stepping stones in stream
During her year abroad, Maggie Huss visited the historic village of Aït Benhaddou in Morocco.

Maggie Huss

“There is a profound focus on internationalization at the University of Wyoming,” says senior Maggie Jean Huss, an international studies major and French minor. “There is a large emphasis on enabling students to study abroad by providing scholarships, exchanges, service trips or teacher-led programs that match all interests and financial needs.”

Huss took full advantage of these opportunities, participating in alternative spring break trips through UW’s office of Service, Leadership and Community Engagement to Trinidad and Tobago, and Tucson, Ariz., and spending her sophomore year at the University of Strasbourg in France.

“Learning French was a profound takeaway, but I think that, by studying and living abroad, one is offered a unique life experience in addition to the academic merits,” says Huss, a Laramie native. “Living in a foreign country and navigating a different culture allow you to grow as a human being and open your mind to new and diverse concepts and experiences.”

With support and guidance from the International Studies Program, Huss also earned internships at the U.S. Department of State both her junior and senior years, with the second being a full-time Pathways Internship: “As a freshman at UW, I never would have imagined that I would spend the final year of my undergraduate career working for the Department of State, an agency I have only ever dreamed about.”

The Pathways Internship Program affords students the opportunity to live and work as full-time Department of State employees in advance of their graduation. The program was created as a means of career development and mentorship for those with keen interest in pursuing civil service careers. Huss was offered a position within the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Her office engages with overseas embassies and consulates and aids in monitoring the visa process.

In between her travels, Huss stayed busy with a variety of campus involvement, including serving as a freshman member of the White Hall senate, participating in the International Studies Student Club, interning with Forward Wyoming during its Grassroots Institute and becoming a wellness ambassador through the UW Wellness Center, as well as a peer leader with its program, The Body Project.

“One of the most important assets on UW’s campus is the Wellness Center and its associated program, The Body Project,” Huss says, explaining that the project promotes positive body satisfaction.

“The size of UW puts the school in a unique position where it is large enough to offer substantial funding for its students yet small enough to truly connect and invest in them,” she says. “The low cost of the university also affords students a more realistic chance to study their passions locally and internationally.”


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