Joe and Brenda Ewing of Iowa City raised their kids to be curious about the world. Discussions around the dinner table included current events and what they might mean for Iowa. Family vacations exposed them to great museums and unfamiliar cities, and some of the travel was international.
When all five Ewing children attended the University of Iowa, they pursued majors suited to their individual goals and ambitions, but the common thread was that each one studied abroad, some more than once.
The variety of UI Study Abroad programs helped each Ewing child receive a unique study abroad experience. Andrew (B.B.A. finance ’12), the oldest, is a former UI student-athlete who now practices law in Des Moines. He enrolled in the London Winter Session in 2010, giving him the opportunity to learn more about international business.
“The most exciting thing about studying in London was the access to major international financial institutions,” says Andrew. “I learned a lot about myself and my ability to be independent.”
“By living in a new environment and in a different culture, students broaden their worldview and are able to see their home culture from the outside in,” says Kristine Djerf, senior study abroad advisor and program coordinator. “Also, statistics show that students who study abroad graduate in four years more often than students who don’t study abroad.”
Thomas Ewing (B.A. international studies, political science, Russian ’13), wanted to experience the Russian culture and language, so he first went to Russia in the summer of 2011 with a Fulbright-Hays Group Project. Thomas returned to Moscow for his fall 2011 semester.
“I knew spending time there was the only way to truly experience the language and culture in action. Besides that, my time abroad gave me a network of people who continue to serve as a great network of friends and professional contacts,” he says.
The Ewings have made it a point to visit the children when each one was overseas. Joe and Thomas visited Andrew while he was in London. And, when Thomas was in Russia, the whole family flew over to see him.
“My family came out to visit me there, and that was one of the very best experiences of my college career. I also spent some time in Cuba with Iowa's non-fiction writing program, and in China after graduation,” he says.
Nate Ewing (B.B.A. economics, B.A. Asian languages and literature ’16) had long been interested in the Chinese language before studying abroad in Shanghai and Taipei one academic year. In fact, one of his close friends growing up in Iowa City was from Taiwan.
“Not only was I able to increase my language ability, but I also better understand the culture and areas in which some of my best friends grew up,” he says. “I learned a lot about myself. It was a grueling nine months, but I learned how I react in certain situations and I came to better understand my future goals and aspirations.”
UI seniors Grant and Olivia are the Ewings’ youngest children. Grant, who is majoring in Italian, international relations, and political science, spent the spring semester in Italy; and Olivia, who is majoring in international relations and English, spent the summer in Ireland at the UI’s Irish Writing Program.
“I think one of the main points I took away from my experience was independence,” says Grant. “This was not only the first time I had been abroad by myself but the first time I lived by myself for an extended period of time. Booking flights to foreign countries, navigating busy downtown cities, and paying my own bills fostered this sense of independence.”
Djerf says gaining independence is a common theme among students who study abroad.
“Students consistently and constantly talk about how much they learn while abroad; from the little things, such as navigating a big city’s bus or metro system, to the bigger issues such as learning that they are capable adults and can rely on themselves,” she says.
Although she feels as if she has traveled frequently, Olivia also credited her study abroad for feeling independent.
“Studying abroad in Ireland was different from the times I’ve been abroad because it was the first time I traveled without my family! I had more independence, but since I was still with a group, which included both a professor and students from Iowa, I felt comfortable being on my own.”
Joe and Brenda credit the UI Study Abroad program for its support and the great selection of opportunities. “Each child has been able to travel to their own place of interest,” said Joe. “They’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime.”