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A World of Opportunities

January 8, 2020
woman sitting at the end of a fountain
Francheska Riley at the National Art Museum of Catalonia during her time in Spain.

UW grows education abroad, preparing students for a global economy.

By Micaela Myers

Growing up in Green River, Wyo., Francheska Riley already knew she wanted to study abroad in college. “I actually chose UW because of its study-abroad endowment,” she says. “With in-state tuition plus all the money that goes into education abroad at UW, it’s very convenient and affordable.” The University of Wyoming’s Richard B. and Lynne V. Cheney Study-Abroad Scholarship Fund is the largest land-grant university education-abroad scholarship endowment in the nation.

Now a senior majoring in international studies and Spanish with honors, Riley has participated in a number of education-abroad programs, including a semester at the Universitat de Barcelona that allowed her to visit many European countries, a summer faculty-directed program to Jordan and Israel to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and an international internship at the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona—experiences she believes helped her grow personally and professionally. “There are certain life skills you learn from spending time in a foreign land that you really can’t get in any other capacity,” she says.

The number of UW students studying abroad has increased significantly in the past two years, helping achieve UW’s goals set forth in the strategic plan, Breaking Through: 2017-2022. The plan called for increasing faculty and student participation in programs abroad from a baseline of 395 students and 30 faculty members in the 2016–17 academic year to a total of 650 students and faculty in 2022. Well ahead of that target, UW Education Abroad reached 50 faculty and 618 students, for a total of 668, in the 2018–19 school year. 

Skills for a Global World

“Education abroad is not just about seeing the world—it is really about investing in one’s education and future,” says Associate Vice Provost for Global Engagement Anthony Ogden. “When students study abroad in their chosen disciplines, they are able to develop new knowledge and experience that can be ideally leveraged for later career growth and further study. Future employers look favorably at education-abroad participants who are seen as being more mature, confident and comfortable with working across cultures.”

Cheyenne native Jacob Forkner, a senior finance major, spent an exchange semester studying at the EM Strasbourg Business School in France. “I really thought the classes helped with my international business management mindset,” says Forkner, who visited many other countries during his time abroad. “A lot of international companies want people who have that experience. I think that will definitely give me an edge.”

Education Abroad Director Shelley Jewell says that every career now has some type of international element to it. Ogden adds that students need to understand the international nuances of their chosen disciplines as well as have global knowledge and skills. 

Accessible and Affordable

Students can participate in a wide array of education-abroad programs, including an exchange program at one of UW’s many partner universities around the world, with a faculty-directed course, on an international internship, or even in intensive undergraduate research abroad. UW’s Education Abroad office works to make international education accessible and affordable to students from every major.

“UW students can essentially study any topic in most any part of the world for most any duration of time,” Ogden says. “There is something here for every UW student.”

“We are very focused on access and identifying the best program to fit a student’s needs academically and financially,” Jewell says.

Physiology, Spanish and honors student Rachael Troxel of Lander, Wyo., also knew she wanted to study abroad in college. In particular, she wanted to study in Chile and spent a year at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso. “UW makes study abroad very accessible because there are so many options and so many places you can go,” Troxel says. “There are so many options financially as well.”

Both Riley and Troxel lived with host families during their programs, experiences they felt helped them fully immerse in another language and culture. “It’s the best experience I’ve ever had,” Troxel says. “It really pushes you out of your comfort zone. I always encourage other students to go abroad—it’s a time where you experience a lot of personal growth.”

International Partnerships

UW partners with universities around the world for exchanges and collaborative degree programs. For example, this past summer, UW signed agreements with Chengdu University of Information and Technology and Shanghai University of Sport that allow students from these Chinese universities to earn UW master’s degrees in atmospheric science and to study and train in Nordic skiing and other high-altitude sports at UW.

“When international students study at UW, they enrich our campus, classrooms and community,” Ogden says.

While not all UW students study abroad, it’s important that they all experience internationalization at home. To this end, the Global Engagement Office works to build an internationally engaged campus—including curriculum internationalization—and supports international faculty research, as well as engaging the larger Wyoming community in programming.

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