Meet our Study Abroad Bloggers!

Image of Study Abroad blogger photos

We're excited to announce our Study Abroad Bloggers for the spring 2016 semester! These unique individuals were selected from a competitive pool of writers to tell the story of their destination and represent the voice of University of Iowa students while abroad. Throughout the semester, these students will share their experiences through writing and photography to be published weekly here on International Accents. 

Interested in becoming a Study Abroad Blogger yourself? Visit http://international.uiowa.edu/study-abroad/living-abroad/blogging for more information.

Jeffrey Ding
Hometown: Iowa City, IA
Major(s): Political Science, Economics, and Chinese

Jeffrey Ding

Program
I will be interning for B&D law firm through the CRCC China internship program in Beijing.

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
As a Chinese American born in China and raised in the states, I have grown more interested in the U.S. - China relationship.

What are you most excited about?
Gaining more experience with China's legal system and learning more about how rule of law is developing in the country.

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them?
For internship programs, reach out to connections you may have in the country or city in which you want to intern. Otherwise, many companies and government agencies have branches in different locations. Finally, for more difficult placements, you can go through an internship matching company, which is the route I took.

Fun Fact
I'm an obsessive snacker.


Hannah Grahek
​Hometown: Oskaloosa, IA
Major(s): Communication Studies

Hannah Grahek

Program
API Florence, Italy

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
Italy is a place I have always wanted to visit since I was little. I love the lifestyle and culture that the country entails. I have always heard that Italians are very laid back (as am I), warm, and genuine. Those are the types of people that I want to surround myself with. Also, Italy is home to some amazing, historic places that I cannot wait to visit. I have a passion for the arts, so I am thrilled to have access to all of the amazing museums across the country. Last but not least, THE FOOD. I am an avid pasta devourer, and am a little more than excited to taste some authentic Italian food. 

What are you most excited about? 
To really immerse myself in a culture completely different than my own. Growing up in the United States creates a sort of  bubble, and it can be hard sometimes to see outside your own culture and what you are used to. I am ready to be out of the bubble and my comfort zone and see how Italians live their life. I am also very excited to just be in Europe in general, with the opportunity for travel.  I hope to visit a few different countries and make the most out of my experience. 

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them? 
To really figure out what you want most from the experience. First, if you are studying a language and want to further your knowledge of that language, obviously go to a country that speaks it. If you are not studying a language, decide whether or not you want to go to a country that speaks a separate language than English. If you feel like you'd be uncomfortable with that, maybe a place like London or Ireland etc. would be better. It is also important to pay attention to the population of the city you would possibly study in. If you have only lived in small towns, maybe jumping into living in not only a foreign place, but a big city could prove to be overwhelming. The smaller the city, the less commercialized it will be, which means less tourists, but could also have more language barriers. If a bunch of tourists running around everywhere is something that would irritate you, my advice would to be to avoid the major cities we all know and learn about. The smaller the place, the more immersed you will be in the culture. There are pros and cons to both. My final piece of advice is to go where you think YOU will like best. Don't base your choice on outside opinions. You know yourself best and you will be the one experiencing it, so it really should come down to what you want. Trust your instinct and yourself. 

Fun Fact
I love rollerblading. It is one of my favorite hobbies. Although it might not be possible, if I get the opportunity to get my feet in some blades in Italy, I will. 


Caroline Mangum
​Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Major(s): English

Caroline Mangum

Program
I'm participating in the University of Iowa's Lancaster University Exchange Program in Lancaster, England.

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
I chose England and Lancaster for three reasons. Firstly, I wanted a place that spoke English, given the fact that my major is English and Creative Writing. Secondly, I love British fiction, particularly Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis, and I wanted to live in and explore the place where my favorite authors lived and wrote. Thirdly, the option of an exchange allows me to pay my fees to the University of Iowa and is therefore much less expensive than a non-exchange study abroad program. Given my desire to travel around Europe during my Spring Break, cost was very important in my decision.

What are you most excited about?
All of the traveling I'm going to do. Not only will I get to see beautiful places like Italy and Ireland, but I also will get to meet and interact with people from so many different cultures. Based on my past experiences in Europe, I know that it's the people who really make everything special and teach me things I never knew before.

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them?
First, narrow down the field by focusing on essentials, such as the native language/language of instruction, cost, and courses offered. There are so many places to go that it can feel overwhelming, but once you firmly decide that, for example, you want to live somewhere that will help you improve your French, the field narrows considerably. After doing this, choosing a program becomes similar to searching for a college back in the US. Think about what is most important to you, which is different for everyone, and let those priorities steer your choice. Just take it all one step at a time, get started searching early, and don't be afraid to ask for help. A final word of advice: you're probably going to want to travel, so the costs of living in each country and attending each university should always be in the back of your mind (remember exchange rates!).

Fun Fact
I've self-published five novels and I can say the alphabet backwards in under 3 seconds.


Kelsey O'Donnell
Hometown: Sergeant Bluff, IA
Major(s): International Studies, Anthropology

Kelsey O'Donnell

Program
I am currently on the Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland for the entire academic year in Cork, Ireland. 

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
My first trip outside of the United States was to Ireland and I fell in love with the beautiful landscape and friendly culture. My great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland in the late 1800s, so I feel a connection to my chosen destination. I ultimately made my decision because of the great opportunities offered by University College Cork and because it was a place I could wholeheartedly envision myself living for a year.

What are you most excited about?
Initially, I was most excited to experience all the cultural differences and meeting people from all over the world. This has proven to be one of the greatest things about my study abroad experience. As I go into my second semester, I am most excited to fully explore my destination and make sure that I leave in May having accomplished all of my goals. 

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them?
The most important thing is to explore all your options by looking through the website and visiting the study abroad office. Is there a place you have always wanted to visit? Are you trying to master a particular language? As corny as this sounds, you have to follow your heart. I was between several programs, but I realized that I was holding myself back from choosing Ireland because I didn't want to choose a "typical" location or fail to challenge myself, when what I truly wanted to do was to come here. Just remember, you are the one who is living and learning in your chosen destination, so do not let other people impact your decision. 

Fun Fact
I am the first of my family to leave the country and go abroad, so I put my family through some shock when I chose to spend a year abroad instead of a semester! 


Marcus Smith
Hometown: Bolingbrook, IL
Major(s): Political Science, Ethics, and Public Policy

Marcus Smith

Program
I am studying at the School of Social and Political Science at The University of Edinburgh. I am going through the Institute for Study Abroad program at Butler University.

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
I chose Edinburgh, Scotland, because I knew I wanted to study abroad, but was not proficient in another language. In Edinburgh, I don't have to worry about a language barrier, but I still get to experience a new country and enjoy living in the culturally rich capital city.

What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about immersing myself in a new culture. I have never traveled outside of the United States before, so I am eager to gain a more global perspective. Also, since I will be here for five months, I will have the opportunity to integrate fully into the city rather than only seeing all of the touristy hot spots.

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them?
First, identify the core reasons why you want to go abroad. I knew that I wanted to live in a large, politically active city and I wanted to be able to travel around Europe easily. In Edinburgh, I live five minutes away from the Scottish Parliament and twenty minutes away from their international airport, and I could not be happier with my decision!

Fun Fact
I can quote the entire movie of Mean Girls word for word.


Emily (Ly-Ly) Specter
Hometown: Kensington, CA
Major(s): Psychology

Emily Specter

Program
The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) in Auckland, New Zealand.

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
I love to travel. I'm planning on traveling through Europe and Asia when I graduate, and I chose New Zealand because I heard it's amazingly beautiful and I thought this would be one of the only situations in which I would want to go to that part of the world. NZ is also near Asia and my emphasis is Eastern Asia for my International Studies major. There's also the fact that NZ is where Lord of the Rings was made. So I obviously had to go for all the other hobbits out there. 

What are you most excited about?
I'm really excited about exploring NZ. There are rainforests and glaciers I definitely want to hike through. I'm really excited about exploring the NZ culture as well.

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them?
I would definitely talk it over with your advisor. They usually know the different pros and cons of each program. It also depends what you're looking for. Sometimes it's cheaper not to go through a program, but it's more work. Some programs have different types of orientations. Go on each program's website. That always helps. 

Fun Fact
I have really small hands. I've never met anyone with smaller hands than me, besides children. 


Shannon Wright
Hometown: Iowa City, IA
Major(s): English

Shannon Wright

Program
I am studying abroad with a program called University Studies Abroad Consortium or USAC for short. I found the program through the study abroad office at the University of Iowa. I didn't know anything about the programs beforehand so Fran, my study abroad advisor, helped me out a lot. 

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
I am studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. I have never traveled out side of the United States before, but I knew that Prague was the first place I wanted to go when I could travel. My grandfather is from Prague. He doesn't remember a whole lot about it because his family moved to the United States when he was young, but I knew that this was a chance to learn something about my heritage and maybe bring something back for my grandfather. 

What are you most excited about?
The classes/trips. The classes I am taking here have a lot to do with the history and architecture in Prague, so I am really excited to begin learning about that. Also, there is a group trip I signed up for later on in the semester through my program that goes to Vienna and Budapest. I can't wait to travel more and see Budapest!

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them?
Really talk to your study abroad advisor. If you know where you want to go they can help you out a lot and if you don't know where to go there are people who can show you options to help you decide. It is finding a balance between the cost of the program, the classes it offers, and just other perks of the program. For example, I really like that my program has a Czech language course for two weeks before actual classes start so that I can learn some key Czech phrases that will help me get around Prague.

Fun Fact
​Hmmmm... I guess a fun fact about me would be that I have been to Disney World 20 times. Remember my grandfather I was talking about? Well, he and my grandmother have been taking my mom and her siblings to Disney World in Florida since it opened, so it's kind of a tradition. Every year around Christmas time we get the whole family together in Florida and go to Disney. I have been there every year since I was born.


Caitlin Yeggy
​Hometown: Kalona, IA
Major(s): English

Caitlin Yeggy

Program
 I am currently enrolled in the year-long Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland program, based in Cork, Ireland.

Where's your destination and why did you choose it?
I chose to study in Ireland because it is a country with unique culture and incredible historical interest. I am also of Irish ancestry, so I have always felt a personal connection to Ireland. I actually had the chance to visit the emigration port in Cobh, Ireland earlier this year, and it was amazing to return to the place from which my family departed generations ago.

What are you most excited about?
Upon leaving the U.S., I was most excited for developing a stronger sense of independence. Living an ocean away from all my friends and family means that I have no one but myself to fall back on. For example, if I am feeling homesick, I can't just pack a bag and go home for the weekend. Or if I'm even just having a bad day, I might not be able to call my mom to talk because it could be 3 a.m. in Iowa. While this detachment was certainly daunting at first, it has made me much more self-sufficient and has taught me that sometimes my own company is enough.

What advice do you have for other students about finding the right program for them?
The best suggestion I have for potential study abroad students is to enroll in a year-long program. A year may seem like a long time to spend away from home, but I promise it is worth it. A single semester would not have allowed me to truly feel like a part of Cork and develop that "home" feeling. Two semesters also means more time for traveling, more time to meet interesting people, and more time to evolve as an individual. Year-long program. Do it.

Fun Fact
My roommate and I spent our Christmas Eve sledding in the Austrian Alps. Just one of the perks of studying abroad! :)

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