“I have a greater appreciation and knowledge of diversity now, and it’s made me want to broaden aspects of my own life.”
Kim Phelan’s parents have never traveled abroad, so where did she get her wanderlust? She says it might have grown out of her experience as a high school student in tiny Kinsman, Illinois, where she had the opportunity to go to Spain.
“The towns we went to in Spain were all pretty big, especially since I’ve lived out in the country my whole life – my high school only had 300 people!” Phelan says. Everything about Europe seemed so exciting and different that when she came to the University of Illinois, she made plans to continue traveling through Study Abroad.
Phelan participated in (four week) winter break study abroad sessions as a way to get the experience without disrupting her academic schedule. She’s been to France and Austria as a UI student, and the additional credit hours she’s earned are helping her graduate early (after which she’ll return to Spain as an au pair for a year or more).
Phelan says the Study Abroad Office made planning these trips easy.
“I don’t know how else I would have done it,” she says. “You can look up everything you need on the Web site – it really helps you figure things out.” Phelan spent a lot of time reading the past students’ experiences in the study abroad office for the great advice that can be found in them.
In fact, those stories inspired her to go to France for three weeks in her sophomore year to study the minority experience in Paris. “It was interesting because it wasn’t a technical class,” Phelan says. “We read various books and then held question-and-answer sessions with the authors that wrote them.” The students also went to different high schools in the area to interview about sociological topics.
The following year, Phelan took another study abroad course in Austria that inspired her to start taking German classes when she returned to Illinois.
To continue the international flavor of her college experience, Phelan is living with two exchange students from France. Setting everything up on the Study Abroad Office Web site’s discussion board, Phalanx notes how much she’s liked all of her experiences..
“I really don’t know how to describe it,” Phelan says, “but I have a greater appreciation and knowledge of diversity now, and it’s made me want to broaden aspects of my own life.” So what are her apprehensions about going abroad for over a year?
“None!” she exclaims. “I’m just excited to go!”
Considering Studying Abroad?
Advice from Kim:
- Pack as lightly as you can! You will buy things, and you’ll probably find you don’t need as much there.
- Be open to all experiences! If someone offers something, try it once (as long as it’s legal).
- Definitely look for the non-tourist areas. The greatest thing you can do is to get to know the locals, or at least what the locals do.
- Bring a roller suitcase - it makes traveling MUCH easier, especially if you are going to travel to other places once you’re there.