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Students Testimonies

Study abroad is an essential part of the college experience. Through global study, research or internships, students put their classroom learning into action. They gain self-knowledge, confidence, cultural competency, and the skills necessary for success in today’s global workplaces. But what’s more, students come home with an appreciation and cultural understanding that would not be possible otherwise. This helps to foster a more accepting environment on our campuses, ensuring that the Shepherd University remains a place for people of all backgrounds to learn, discover and thrive.

Our students are driven to discover through study abroad.

These passionate students traveled the world in pursuit of learning and discovery. Their experiences are as boundless as their destinations.

Gabrielle Hersey

Hometown: Delray, West Virginia
Major: English – Creative Writing
Study abroad program: Culture and Community – Summer 2016,  West Liberty University
Destination: Bavaria, Germany

Why did you choose your program?

I chose this program because it was cheap and I wanted to go to Germany and see the culture I was only learning about in class. I wanted to find a new appreciation for this language that seemed so foreign at the time. I also have always had wanderlust and so I wanted to finally get the chance to see the “real” world and maybe even find myself a little.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

I made so many new friends! I didn’t think I’d bond with my group the way I did, but I also made a few friends in Germany that I still keep in contact with. All of this is such an unexpected bonus for me, who is someone that doesn’t usually make friends easily.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

I did. I was worried it would be really expensive and that I wouldn’t make any friends and so I wouldn’t have a good time. But all those worries were laid to rest when I got a scholarship that paid for a lot of the tuition and when I bonded so well with so many people on this trip. I had so much fun, that I’m considering doing my Masters in Wurzburg, Bavaria, which is where I stayed during my time there in Germany.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career? 

I can now tell future employers that I have been to Germany, so not only can I speak the language but I can give an accurate representation of their culture. This trip helped me explore a whole new culture and now I’m even more certain that I want a job that will allow me to travel to different places and experience new cultures. I also think this trip allowed me to strengthen my communication skills as well, because I was forced to speak a language I’d only ever learned in class and I was also forced to think outside of the box to get my point across when I was unable to think of the correct German words.

Katie Zakrzewski

Hometown: Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
Major: Political Science
Study abroad program: Shepherd University Faculty Led Program: Evolution of European Government and Society
Destinations: Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Netherlands


Why did you choose your program?

I chose this study abroad program because it was very political science heavy. After seeing the list of destinations I realized that this would be the perfect program for me because we were going to visit some of the world’s most historic and monumental locations.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

My study abroad trip made a huge impact on my life. It is very common that we get stuck in the same routine with our everyday lives, but being able to step out of my comfort zone into new territory reminded me of how big this world really is.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

My biggest concern before my trip was traveling with no one else I knew, but this quickly diminished after I met the rest of my group. It’s been almost a year since I traveled and I am still very close with most of them.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career? 

There are so many opportunities out there and so many things to learn, it would be ignorant of us not to travel. With that being said, my trip influenced my new found interests for international relations and with that, I will for sure be seeking a career in which I get to travel abroad.

Gabriela Alvarado

Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Major: Sports Marketing
Study abroad programAPI
Destination: Quito, Ecuador

Why did you choose your program?

I wanted to go to Ecuador so I could experience the culture where my family is from. I wanted to meet family members that I’ve never met before. Also, I wanted to study more Spanish to communicate with my family members as well as being able to understand my classes.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

I didn’t expect to meet such amazing people during my time there. Not only my family members but also the other members of my abroad program and there were 10 of us in total. We became our own little family and went on amazing trips and we created so many memories together. I’m thankful that I got to meet great people while I was there.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

One of my concerns was the language barrier. My Spanish was okay when I went down there but I was worried that my Spanish wasn’t good enough. All of my classes were in Spanish and I realized that a lot of the other international students were on the same level as me. They also took all
Spanish classes so I was glad that I wasn’t the only one and we were able to help each other.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career? 

I hope to become fluent in Spanish in the future so that I can work with an international company that allows me to use my language skills. For my senior year, I chose to study abroad again because of my amazing experience in Ecuador. This time I chose to study at Nanhua University in Taiwan for the year to learn Mandarin and also finish my credits over there.

Sarah Swailes

HometownMartinsburg, West Virginia
Major
Nursing
Study abroad program
Edge of the Outback, CIS Abroad
Destination:
Outback, Australia

Why did you choose your program?

I chose my program because it was the most culture oriented program I saw.  I was able to plan ahead and I raised money to fund my program.  I funded my program through scholarships, grants, GoFundMe, and doing odd jobs over the year.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

was not expecting to become more independent and confident in my self during study abroad.  I was not expecting to learn so much about aboriginal culture in such a short amount of time. Being led by my aboriginal guide Peter, throughout the outback really opened my eyes to a fragile part of Australian history and culture. I also took a photography class, which is very different from nursing and couldn’t believe how fast I learned how to operate my complicated camera and how much I fell in love with photography.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

I was concerned about getting lost abroad.  Little did I know that’s the best part of studying abroad.  I was also worried

about being entirely on my own without any friends or family for the first time. But after two hours of meeting my group all my worries vanished because we all clicked really fast.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career? 

Study abroad showed me how to adapt to any type of situation, something that can be applied every day in Nursing.

Rebekah Hunter

HometownMartinsburg, West Virginia
Major
Social Work
Study Abroad program
Shepherd University Faculty Led Program: International Community Service Learning  
Destination:
La Antigua, Guatemala

Why did you choose your program?

I chose the study abroad program in Guatemala because: one, besides Canada I had never traveled outside the U.S. two, it was affordable and three, the focus on service learning was within my program of social work (although all majors were welcome to travel and not take the course).

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

Going into the trip I did not expect that I’d be sponsoring a child’s education as part of the experience. Before, during, and even some after we (the 7 students that went on the trip) were given the task of raising $500 for a student (paying for one year of their continued education). I was able to, with the help of social media and many people’s donations, raise $500 for a 14 yr. old boy named Daniel.  I got to meet him at the school he attends and get a picture with him.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

Yes, I did. I was concerned at first that I wouldn’t be able to raise the money to go. I was concerned about safety while in country, mainly from what I had read online about Guatemala beforehand. But the country is actually very safe to go, I’d even consider traveling there by myself. I was also concerned that my Spanish skills were lacking and that I wouldn’t be able to interact with the locals. 

How will your study abroad help you in your future career? 

My study abroad experience will help me in my future career because it brought up in me a desire to travel and maybe even look at international social work as a possibility. It gave me more desire to join the Peace Corp when I graduate. Also I found that I really like the Spanish language and would like to become fluent so I can help a broader range of clients in my career as a social worker.

Julia Athey

Hometown: Charles Town, West Virginia
Major: Business Admin. & English
Study abroad program: Intern Abroad – Summer 2016, CISabroad
Destination: London, UK

Why did you choose your program?

I chose this program because I wanted long-term immersion in a new culture. My internship was with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust working across multiple teams to help prepare for the United Kingdom Cystic Fibrosis Conference. While I love travel and spending time hopping around Europe would have been amazing, I wanted to be working and learning the flow of wherever I was. Interning in London put me in the heart of the city and gave me a reason to constantly be exploring there while still having time to go other places.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

The amazing friend I made in my flatmate! Mary Myers and I spent so much time exploring and having adventures together. No matter what happened it was nice to have someone else to help navigate situations. We almost got stuck in Bath because of missing a bus, but calm as can be Mary gets us to the train station and finds us a train back! So, I suppose I almost got the unexpected pleasure of being stranded in Bath – thank god for trains!  It was great to be working with a nonprofit and to know my actions were helping the cause. Also, everyone there was wonderful and always willing to help me if I needed it. They were a great work community!

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

Of course! I was terrified of the tube system and of getting hopelessly lost somewhere and not knowing how to get back. Not to mention I didn’t know anyone at first. But, all those fears were unfounded and after a week I could take a train, bus, or cab anywhere! Plus, everyone where I worked was super friendly and my roommate and I became fast friends.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career? 

The experience has given me confidence that I can be in an unfamiliar situation and still succeed and that I can adapt to anything. Learning that I can survive in a new environment and thrive has really emboldened me. Despite not going to a country with a different language, I did gain the ability to deal with being in a new culture. This experience has also lead me to the realization that I want a job that involves travel. It was an adventure and I’m eager for more!

Alyson Hehr

Hometown: Wheeling, West Virginia
Major: Political Science & Economics
Study abroad programs: Shepherd University Faculty Led Program: Spanish Immersion in Costa Rica & Evolution of European Government and Society
Destination: Costa Rica; Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Netherlands

Why did you choose your program?

I chose to study abroad twice while at Shepherd.  The first time was to Costa Rica on a faculty led trip for three weeks.  This enabled me to dive into another culture and practice my Spanish skills in a native country.  I was not only able to meet new people, but I was able to experience new things, like surfing and white water rafting through rain forests.  The summer after my junior year I went on another faculty led trip to Europe.  We were there for a little over 3 weeks and went to 7 different countries.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

We got to do so many different things and had so many unbelievable opportunities! We went to a refugee center where we got to meet and speak with refugees, got tickets to
mass with Pope Francis in the Vatican City, and saw a trial at the International Criminal Court.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

My parents had concerns with all the terrorist attacks going on at the time I went to Europe.  The professor leading the trip made sure that we avoided taking unnecessary risks and limited our experiences with public transportation.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career?

These opportunities are not only rare, but extremely influential.  I plan on studying International Human Rights Law, and between speaking with refugees and seeing international law in action my plans for the future were solidified.  I still can’t believe that I have experienced all of these opportunities and I would encourage anyone who is thinking about studying abroad to go!

William Wheatley

Hometown: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Major: Political Science
Study abroad program: Shepherd University Faculty Led Program: Canadian Parliamentary Internship
Destination: Ottawa, Canada

Why did you choose your program?

I chose this program because it sounded like an amazing experience being able to have access to look inside a parliamentary system. It would also allow me to make my first trip out of the United States in a way that was meaningful to me by allowing me to pursue work in my field of study.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

One thing I was not expecting was to get such a great look at the cultural differences between the US and Canada. While I was expecting some sort of difference, I was lucky enough to talk openly with a number of Canadians about how they felt regarding issues like universal health care and US military involvement overseas. It was through these little conversations here and there I was able to realize how differently Canadians think, and it was great for broadening my horizons.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

Being that it was my first time out of the country, it was a little bit daunting but I was aided by the study abroad office prior to my trip and they answered any and all questions I had substantially.  After the first couple of days in Canada I had settled
in and was getting around just fine. Quebec was a little more intimidating because all of the signs were in French, but I was guided by our instructor there, Dr. James Baker, and had no real issues getting around.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career?

My trip to Canada, while short, has had a great impact on my career path and life in general.  I was given great insight to the many different careers that are available within the field of government and which ones are right for me.  Furthermore I was able to see what life is like for elected officials and their staff, as well as what day-to-day operations that keep governments running consist of.  It has definitely made me want to pursue work that is international in nature so I am able to continue taking in new cultures, perspectives, and truly become a global student and citizen.

Pandora Affemann

Hometown: Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Major: Communications, minor: Journalism
Study abroad program: AIFS
Destination: Barcelona, Spain

Why did you choose your program?

I chose AIFS because they had everything I was looking for- apartment housing, a Barcelona fall semester program with art/history classes, and several scholarships, one of which I was able to receive that slashed my program cost in half. I chose a program in Barcelona because the more research I did, the more it seemed like my dream city: incredible food, rich history, a vibrant art scene and beautiful architecture, all in the perfect location to explore Western Europe& the Mediterranean.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

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I had expected to learn how to be more independent and comfortable on my own, which I did. But meeting people from new cultures, getting to know the people in my program who were from all over the U.S., and becoming as close as sisters with the four girls who were my roommates made me open up and break out of my shell in ways I’d never experienced before and certainly wasn’t expecting.

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?
My biggest concern was money. I wasn’t nervous at all for the experience until I arrived there, but any worry I felt quickly melted away as I made friends with people, got to know my surroundings, and became comfortable with getting lost in a new place.

How will your study abroad help you in your future career?

I want to be a photojournalist, so studying abroad prepared me for a career that could involve traveling from place to place and having to get comfortable and get my bearings at a moment’s notice. I also got to take some really incredible pictures that will definitely be going on my portfolio.

Elizabeth Camp

HometownEldersburg, Maryland
Major
Social Work
Study Abroad program
Shepherd University Faculty Led Program: International Community Service Learning  
Destination:
La Antigua, Guatemala

Why did you choose your program?

I chose my program because it related to my field. I was able to experience social work in an international setting and this helped broaden my horizons.

Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

I was able to practice my Spanish and realized I remembered a lot more than I thought. Just being able to use it made a difference and maybe in the future this will benefit me. 

Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

I didn’t have any concerns studying abroad. I grew up abroad and it was like going home in a way. 

How will your study abroad help you in your future career?

My study abroad will help me in my future career because I hope to eventually work for a nonprofit or NGO overseas. 

Jennifer Emch

Hometown: New Martinsville, West Virginia
Major: English Literature
Study abroad program: Shepherd University Faculty Led Program: Celtic Roots France
Destination: France

Why did you choose your program?

I chose the Celtic Roots trip because it was a component of a course that focused on “prominence of place.” I read the syllabus for the course and discovered we would be reading works of literature written by expatriates Hemingway and Fitzgerald, two writers I admire. The thought of following in their footsteps around Paris was very appealing.

 Tell us about something unexpected that you got out of the experience.

I went on my trip with an English class, so I knew I would come out of the experience with a greater appreciation for Literature. However, I never thought I would gain such an appreciation for history! I knew history and literature went hand in hand, but I had never really thought much about it until I was on my trip. I was able to actually see the historical context behind the works of literature we read in class. It was very cool.

 Did you have concerns about studying abroad?

I did have some concerns, but my excitement outweighed those concerns. I just made sure to stay with the group and to always be aware of my surroundings.

 How will your study abroad help you in your future career

Since graduating, I have obtained a job teaching high school English to juniors and seniors. While in this job, I have used my study abroad experience to enrich the lessons I teach. I am able to show students my pictures and share my stories to make lessons more interesting.