Come to UW, Travel the World

With the largest study-abroad scholarship endowment of any U.S. four-year public land-grant university, UW offers students the chance to study anywhere—from five days over spring break to an entire year abroad.

By Micaela Myers

If you long to see the world, the University of Wyoming is the perfect place to start. Each year, UW students travel to nearly 50 countries, and the International Programs Office partners with 120 international institutions for study-abroad or exchange programs, as well as 17 program providers who arrange opportunities all over the world. Study-abroad options include exchange programs at partner institutions, study-abroad courses hosted by third-party providers, faculty-led programs, internships or research.

UW also makes study abroad affordable: Nearly $2 million in scholarship funding has been provided by the International Programs Office since 2006. UW is home to the largest single scholarship endowment for study abroad of any public four-year, land-grant U.S. university. Here, meet four UW students who recently studied abroad and read what they have to say about the experience.

Zach Anderson, junior, mechanical engineering with a minor in Chinese

man standing in front of a city at night with many lights
Zach Anderson in Shanghai, China. (Courtesy Photo)

Growing up in Thermopolis, Wyo., Zach Anderson never thought he’d end up dancing on Chinese television. But when you dive into every experience the way he has, you never know where your adventures may take you.

“It was an amazing nine weeks in the northern Heilongjiang province of China,” Anderson says of his summer program at Harbin Institute of Technology with UW Chinese Study Abroad Program Director Yan Zhang. “It was an intensive language study course, but we had a very balanced mixture of activities—from learning martial arts and local artistic styles like Chinese knot tying to community service. We also did homestays and had Chinese roommates. It was the whole experience.”

That experience included an internship with the province’s largest TV station. That’s where the singing and dancing came in. “At the Harbin Institute of Technology campus, we had performed an American medley,” he says, noting that dance numbers included Taylor Swift. “We revamped our performance, and they broadcast it on television. It was weird to have reached celebrity status for a week or two.”

Anderson chose to learn Chinese, one of the most widely spoken languages, as part of his career preparation, but the study-abroad experience provided more than just language immersion. “It made me feel like a more globally aware citizen,” he says. “I feel like I’ve taken steps to set myself up to enter this global stage and become part of our global community.”

Anderson hopes to work in research and development or the automotive industry after graduation, as well as travel and use his Chinese language skills.

He believes the study-abroad opportunities UW offers rise above what his family and friends have at universities in other states. “I would say that anybody who wants to study abroad and have not only an in-depth experience but also one that won’t break the bank should definitely come to UW,” he says.

He notes other opportunities that also set UW apart: “I partially chose UW because of the active lifestyle I want to live,” Anderson says. “I love skiing, hiking, backpacking and riding my dirt bikes and motorcycles. The ability to have this nice town full of cultural experiences, great shops and restaurants and to go just a little ways a way and have awesome vistas for hiking and backpacking and a great ski range—it’s the best of every world. It’s the center of the Venn diagram, where it’s super cost effective, and the opportunities are on par if not better than almost every major university in the area.”

Alexandra Howell, senior, energy systems engineering and environment and natural resources with a minor in honors

three women standing outside with a castle in the background
Alexandra Howell (far right) stands with two students from Germany in front of Edinburgh castle during her semester in Scotland. (Courtesy Photo)

Alexandra Howell came to UW from Morrill, Neb., influenced by strong family recommendations and the energy systems major she was looking for. Here, she discovered a world of opportunities.

“I attended the University of Hull in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom as an exchange student during my fall 2016 semester,” Howell says. “Additionally, I had the opportunity to travel and experience many amazing placing and cultures, including London, Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Stonehenge and several others.”

The University of Hull is one of UW’s numerous exchange partner universities, which means students pay the same tuition rate as they do during a semester at UW. “All of my classes were fascinating,” Howell says. “They helped connect a lot of topics I had already learned about in the United States to an international scale. I feel they will be very helpful in my future endeavors.

“It is true what they always tell you about foreign exchange semesters: They are amazing, eye-opening experiences,” she says.

The International Programs Office helped Howell find the right university with the programs she was looking for and also provided scholarships. In addition to study abroad, Howell is involved with many other aspects of life at UW, including WYO-Gold Student Alumni Association; Women in Mathematics, Science and Engineering; Fish N’ Chicks fly-fishing club; intramural sports; student work; and undergraduate research. “I have worked in the computer labs at the College of Engineering and Applied Science under Cheryl Hilman for the majority of my college career, an experience that I have learned a great deal from,” she says. In the summer of 2016, she began research with mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Erica Belmont in combustion technologies, then picked the research back up this spring and plans to continue it during her master’s work in mechanical engineering at UW. 

“One the things I appreciate most about UW is the close-knit relationships of students, professors and departments,” Howell says. “The faculty and staff care about the students and work hard to give them every opportunity to succeed.”

Michael Curtis, graduated December 2016, accounting and Spanish

man standing in front of a very large waterfall
Michael Curtis at Iguazu Falls during his study-abroad trip to Argentina. (Courtesy Photo)

For Michael Curtis of Pine Bluffs, Wyo., attending UW meant he could follow the trail of Don Quixote in Spain and see the places that author Miguel de Cervantes wrote about in his famous novel—what Curtis describes as an unforgettable experience.

That was the summer of 2015. This past summer, Curtis signed up for a second study-abroad summer course with assistant professor of Spanish literature Conxita Domènech, this time to Argentina. “We spent half of the trip in Buenos Aires, one of the world’s mega-cities,” he says. “On the second half of the trip, we traveled through other parts of Argentina, including Córdoba, Iguazu Falls and even an indigenous village where we were also the first Americans to visit. Iguazu Falls—the largest waterfalls system in the world—was one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been and is considered one of the new wonders of the world. It was incredible to see these places.

“What made the trips special was the ability to be immersed in the culture of different people to learn about them while also expanding my Spanish-speaking ability,” Curtis continues. “In most places, the local people wanted
to learn just as much about us as we did from them. College is the perfect time to travel and meet new people.”

He adds that UW’s low tuition and ample scholarships make study abroad very affordable. “Through UW you can study abroad to virtually any place that you can imagine,” Curtis says. “There are a number of resources offered to customize a trip that fits your wants and needs at a great value.”

And whether it’s study abroad or activities on campus, he encourages new students to get involved: “I believe that the experiences you have are directly connected with your willingness to try new things and make new friends.”

Thanks to help from UW Career Services, Curtis already had a job lined up before graduation with Lenhart, Mason & Associates LLC in Casper, where he is now beginning his accounting career. “I truly believe that the people of UW genuinely care about the students and want to help them prepare for their adult life,” he says. “UW offers service through every step of the college experience—from the original application to the final job search and after. Students and faculty create a community that goes beyond education itself. When you enroll in UW, you will be a Cowboy for life.”

Sam Wiswell, senior, environmental geology and geohydrology, and environment and natural resources with minors in geographic information science and outdoor leadership

man cross country skiing
Sam Wiswell in Kazakhstan at his third World University Games. (Photo by Christine Boggs)

Way back in middle school in Wilson, Wyo., Sam Wiswell made a list of goals, including skiing in college and competing internationally. Little did he know that UW would be the place to make those goals become reality.

You see, Wiswell started his college career at Michigan Tech. Like many Wyoming natives, he felt an urge to leave home for a bit. But not only did he miss the West; he also did the math. “I was looking at about $100,000 in debt versus no debt here. That was huge,” he says.

In January 2017, Wiswell competed in his third World University Games with the UW Nordic Ski Club team. He took the games as an opportunity to also conduct research.

“I feel like it was a really unique opportunity because I got to do a class while skiing at the World University Games,” he says. “We were looking at environmental impacts of skiing while also skiing on a world-class level against people who had had World Cup starts. The first time was in Italy, the second time was in Slovakia, and this winter I went to Kazakhstan. I’ve been very lucky. Each time, we’ve ramped up our analysis of how skiing and international sport in general have an impact with climate change—learning about that impact and how to mitigate it. We were also looking at the sustainability of those types of events.”

During his time with the team, Wiswell earned Academic All-American honors as well as overall All-American honors at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association nationals. The Cowboys are the three-time defending association national champions.

“It’s more than just a group of people who ski and go to races together—we’re engaging in high levels of conversations about diverse issues,” he says of UW’s team. “I think that’s really unique. It’s the best thing I’ve done here, and I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of really cool things. The ski team has generated opportunity and made me a better student and individual.”

Among the other highlights of his college career, Wiswell has conducted research and taken part in cutting-edge conferences. He works with geology and geophysics Professor Ken Sims on a research project in Yellowstone National Park, looking at the chemistry of hydrothermal features. “I’ve gotten to go into Yellowstone, sample from features, go off the boardwalk and see incredible things,” he says. “I was up there in November during the administrative period. It was just me and a couple other people in the research group, and we were sampling from geysers in the Norris Geyser Basin—stuff people come from all over the world to see—and we’re intimately interacting with them, trying to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on. That’s another really unique thing about UW: the opportunity to do meaningful research.”

Wiswell also worked on a UW geophysics field team for a summer, traveling all over the Western U.S. doing near-surface geophysics, and he attended the SHIFT (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow) conference in Jackson, Wyo. “We went with support from the Haub School, and we got to participate in this conference that had everyone from Forest Service and Park Service staff to young people in startup nonprofits who are teaching the next generation of conservation,” he says. “That was super inspiring.”

With graduation on the horizon, Wiswell is looking for a career in the National Park Service or U.S. Forest Service or at a nonprofit where he can pursue his passion for the environment and sustainability while helping future generations experience the great outdoors the way he has growing up in Wyoming.

His advice for those considering UW? “I’d say it’s the best bang for your buck you can imagine. And especially for people who are from Wyoming, even though it’s your home state school … the experience I’ve had here has been one of the most dynamic and perspective-shifting experiences of my life to this point. There are tons of incredible people doing incredible things all over campus.”

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