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College students discuss the impact of abroad experiences

Two college students discuss their individual experiences abroad.

For college students across the globe, traveling to a new country serves as an intersection of knowledge and exploration. Textbooks become passports and walks across campus become adventures in a new country. As scholars pack their bags and board their planes, they embark on a rich cultural and academic journey: a study abroad experience. 

According to a recent study by Open Doors, U.S. institutions reported a 523% increase in students traveling abroad in the summer of 2021. Those early post-pandemic study-abroad trends show the high demand for international study.

Jenna Reitz, a junior studying visual communications, feels that her experiences abroad have changed the way she views education and the world around her.

Last year, Reitz spent the summer in Italy. This summer, she will be participating in a short-term Ohio University multi-country experience called The Rhetorics of Remembering. 

The Rhetorics of Remembering takes students on a tour of famous cities in Europe. Participants gain a better understanding of history through first-hand visitation to sites such as the Dachau concentration camp, an important point in Holocaust remembrance. 

The program lasts from May 14 to May 26. Students begin in Berlin, Germany, and spend time in Prague and the Czech Republic. After traveling with other program participants, Reitz will part ways, traveling alone to Austria in an effort to discover family ties.

“My opa was born in Schladming, Austria, and I'm actually going to the town where he was born,” said Reitz.

Because of unique experiences like those, Reitz is a strong advocate for student study abroad opportunities. Reitz works for the Office of Global Opportunities at OU and is the president of the OU chapter of Growth International Volunteer Excursions or GIVE. 

“It's one thing to learn about it in the classroom in Athens,” said Reitz. “It's another thing to actually go out and experience it and get to see it firsthand.”

​​Lexi Ranalli, a senior studying criminology at Kent State, has been living in Leicester, England for nearly two years. After studying abroad during the 2021-2022 academic year, she decided she would finish her college degree overseas.

“There's a whole world out there outside of America and it's just crazy,” said Ranalli. “I would have never been able to experience this if I stayed there.”

In the past two years, Ranalli had to adjust to a life away from her family, balancing independence with a new, life-altering experience. 

“It was just crazy – getting to meet all of these different people from so many different countries and just understand what their values are,” said Ranalli.

Ranalli explains that this summer, she will return home to graduate. After that, she plans to move back to England.

For students like Reitz and Ranalli, studying abroad has been an important part of their college experiences. 

With a growing pool of government grants and university-based abroad programs, studying overseas has become a reality for students across the country, representing a body of scholars prepared for an interconnected world. 

“I say, anyone who is wondering if they should study abroad – do it,” said Ranalli. “It is the most rewarding experience of my life.”

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