Summer has come and gone, but for many who took part in a study abroad opportunity, the summer was memory making and life changing. Instead of learning lessons in a lab, these students made the world their classroom.

Some students combined business with pleasure by attending one of the University of New Mexico Summer Abroad courses through which students can earn up to six credit hours.

Mary Anne Saunders, special assistant to the President of Global Initiatives at UNM said, "Study abroad experiences impact a person in many positive ways. Students who study abroad have, after their travels, higher grade point averages and higher graduation rates. Also, the majority of employers prefer applicants who have had an international experience over those who have not.”

All the programs receive financial support from different sources, including their associated department and the Study Abroad grant from the Provost’s Office, which often incurs the most expense. The courses, organized by various departments, are a great opportunity for students and professors to step out of their usual surroundings and broaden their horizons by exploring foreign locales.

“It’s a win-win,” said Assistant Professor of Architecture Jorge Colon, leader of the field trip to Rio de Janeiro. “The University is able to support student travel and research; the students get an amazing experience while furthering their independent interests. It can be a lot of fun and also very rewarding.”

This summer UNM offered a variety of courses organized in many foreign destinations. Six graduate students from the School of Architecture and Planning flew to Rio de Janeiro to observe the rapid changes the city is experiencing in light of the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games celebrations; while another group spent three weeks studying European architecture in picturesque Switzerland and Northern Italy.  Anderson School of Management students explored Mexican business and economy in Mérida, Yucatán, while students in the Schloss Dyck program got an in-depth perspective on European and African fairy tales visiting the Brothers Grimm House near Frankfurt, Germany and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels.

“It’s always wonderful to see a kind of transformation in the students,” said Professor Christine Sauer, coordinator of the Schloss Dyck program and UNM Presidential Teaching Fellow. “Once they’ve seen that this experience is fairly reachable, the dream becomes a reality. They think, ‘Well, this is something that I might be able to do.’”  

Other programs included a course from the Department of Economics that studied sustainable growth and development in Nicaragua; a Communication & Journalism and languages program in Ecuador; Business and Culture classes in China; and an Honors program, ‘Conexiones’ in Spain. 

 “Living abroad prepares a person to make more nuanced decisions, and solving one's own problems increases self-reliance and confidence levels,” Saunders said. “These are some of the reasons people often say that study abroad is a ‘life-altering experience.’ And they are right.”

For a slideshow of places and faces, visit: Summer Abroad 2013.

Zuzanna Kajzer was an international student working at University Communication & Marketing as an intern.