Let Your Mind Wander
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A newsletter for study abroad returnees, highlighting stories, information, and events to inspire you to continue building on your international experience.
Did you know IAP has resources for students returning from study abroad? Check it out online. Join us for events like Global Cafe, International Trivia Night, and volunteering at the Study Abroad Fair (fall) or orientation events (fall/spring). Be in the know on international related opportunities and follow what young alumni have done after their study abroad in our monthly newsletter - Badgers Beyond Abroad.
UW alum Amanda Hensgen speaks to the powerful impact of life abroad. Teaching English to Italian third graders helped her realize a passion for supporting students from diverse backgrounds, which she carries through in her current work as a school psychologist serving students with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Photos: Amanda when studying abroad in Italy and exploring the Colosseum in Rome.  Below, Amanda (right) and her friend enjoying the gardens of the Villa Corsi Salviati, where she lived while studying abroad in Florence, Italy.  
What have you been doing since completing your study abroad program?
After returning from my study abroad program, I completed a psychology degree while working as a peer advisor at International Academic Programs (IAP) and in a psychology research lab studying infant language acquisition. After I graduated from UW-Madison, I began my graduate studies at the University of Minnesota to become a school psychologist.

Along with my coursework and practicum placements in various elementary schools in Minneapolis, I worked as a graduate research assistant. There I evaluated the effectiveness of the programs within the Northside Achievement Zone, a promise neighborhood intended to end poverty and create a culture of achievement in an area largely comprised of low-income minority children and adults.

Once I obtained a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology, I completed a yearlong internship in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), working as a school psychologist intern in both early childhood special education and a combined elementary and middle school. After finishing my internship, I received my Educational Specialist degree and became a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.

I have spent the past two years working as a school psychologist in an elementary school that serves a large population of low income, racially, and linguistically diverse students and families. As a school psychologist, I consult and collaborate with teachers to support students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.

I spend much of my time developing behavior intervention plans for young children with significant mental health needs. I support educational services for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, and continually advocate for their rights. I am currently preparing to begin my third year as a school psychologist in MPS and love the students and families I serve!

A reflection on your study abroad experience: How did your time overseas impact your life, your goals, and your career?
My study abroad experience had a significant impact on shaping my values and expanding my cultural lens. Prior to studying abroad, I had never been out of the country, but felt immensely drawn to living abroad. Through this experience, I gained a wider perception of the world while meeting people from every continent. My own worldviews about American culture were challenged through discussions with people I met from other countries.

Living abroad made me develop an appreciation for diverse traditions, languages, and cultures that I had never before experienced firsthand, having lived my whole life in Wisconsin. I learned how much I loved exploring new cultures and how much I yearned to see the rest of the world. It made me greatly value human diversity and become much more open-minded. As I studied abroad as a sophomore, I was the youngest student in my program, which significantly increased my independence and confidence to take on challenges. I learned how to be a more flexible and adventurous person.

One of the most enriching parts of living in Italy was participating in a weekly internship teaching English to a classroom of Italian third graders. This was my first experience working with culturally and linguistically diverse children and as a result I learned how drawn I was to working with students from diverse backgrounds. This experience led me to tutor students in a low-income school when I returned from abroad, which ultimately resulted in my current career in education.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention how many of my current close friends I met through studying abroad and working in the study abroad office. These experiences surrounded me with wonderful people, equally appreciative of cultural diversity and exploration.

Share with us a favorite memory from your study abroad days.
It certainly is difficult to choose only a single favorite memory out of a whole semester of unforgettable experiences; however, one of my favorite memories occurred during the last weekend of living in Italy. A group of my closest friends from the program and I went to a local Italian restaurant in Florence called Trattoria 4 Leoni.

We had an amazing meal, including their world-renowned homemade pear and cheese pasta (which seven years later I continue to recommend to everyone visiting Florence). We ate loads of fresh bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and shared a jug of red wine. We ended the meal by sharing cheesecake, tiramisu, and chocolate pear cake.

After dinner we sat in the Piazza della Signoria, which is the main square in Florence and the political heart of the city. An Italian street artist played live music and sang The Beatles. We danced, sang along to “Let It Be”, and reflected on the wonderful adventures we had throughout the semester.

What advice do you have for students returning from abroad?
I think it is important to acknowledge that living abroad likely has made significant changes to you as a person whether that means changes in your values, belief systems, or goals. Upon returning, not everyone may easily understand these changes as your friends and family did not join you on your study abroad experience.

Therefore, I think it is important to have a space to be able to continue sharing these experiences and processing the impacts of your time abroad. I was fortunate to work for IAP when I returned, which allowed me to continue to reflect on my study abroad experiences and resulting changes to my world view.

I encourage returned students to stay connected with other students you met while studying abroad and access resources provided by IAP. I think it is important to share the cultural insights you gained abroad with others to promote greater understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. Finally, use the experiences you gained from living abroad to continue to challenge yourself, meet new people different than you, and enjoy the rest of your time at UW – as graduation will come faster than you imagine!

Interview conducted via email August 2017.
Best advice for returnees: Don't let that experience be the only one you can draw on from an international perspective. Plan more! - UW Alum Kadie Ray’s words are ones she lives by. She studied abroad in Israel and Morocco, taught English in Peru, worked and expanded her language skills in South Africa, and continues to take advantage of opportunities for international interests through her work in Madison.

Photos: Kadie riding a camel in the desert, from a recent trip to Dubai (for work). Below, Kadie with the Henna tattoo she got while visiting Marrakech during her study abroad program in Morocco. Kadie at one of her favorite hiking spots in Cape Town. .  

What have you been doing since completing your study abroad program?
After my Junior year abroad in Israel and Morocco, I returned to campus for my senior year and continued to study Arabic. Directly after graduating, I traveled to Peru for a few weeks to teach English for elementary and middle school-aged kids. After returning from Peru, I worked in Madison for a while. I was doing some odd jobs trying to determine my next step and not too sure where it would take me. Then, I found the opportunity of a lifetime and applied for a job in Cape Town, South Africa.

I had never visited South Africa before, but knew I would be able to lean on my study abroad, language and travel experiences to help me in a new and foreign place. I worked in Cape Town for two years for a small business (and picking up a bit of a few languages along the way!) before returning home to Wisconsin. I came back to be closer to family, but still wanted to pursue a career with international impacts and where I might be able to use my language skills.

I've been at Epic for about two and a half years now. I work with many clients in the Middle East, and have helped with everything from Arabic translation efforts to traveling to Dubai to support end users that are using Epic software. I also get to rely on some of my study-abroad experiences when interacting with clients from around the globe even when not working directly with out Middle East customers. I haven't relocated as part of my career at Epic (yet) as I'm still enjoying living closer to my family once more, but I know that there's always that option if I so choose. 

A reflection on your study abroad experience: How did your time overseas impact your life, your goals, and your career?
My time overseas has impacted every part of my life, goals, and career thus far. It's what inspired me to move to South Africa for two years and what inspired me to pursue a job with an international reach once returning home. I will always be on the lookout for ways I can use my languages and ways I can incorporate international travel in to future career moves.

Having the experience of studying abroad has helped me to feel more confident in my ability to tackle issues and conflict with flexibility and to be aware of alternative or differing view points in the workplace. It's also connecting me with friends (and pseudo-family) all over the world. I love meeting up with old friends from my study abroad experiences and re-connecting with others around the globe. It's also given me the 'travel itch' and has me always on the lookout for my next international trip or adventure!

Share with us a favorite memory from your study abroad days.
I have so many favorites! I think one of my top memories is any day spent walking through the market in the Old Medina of Fez, Morocco on a busy day. Seeing the camel meat under the archway to kick you off down the winding, stone path filled with meats, spices, fruit, vegetables, sweets, and local wares will always be burned in to my memory.

Whenever visitors came, they always echoed that it 'felt like a movie' and was so exciting to walk through the market. Not only could I find anything I might've been looking for, from dinner to souvenirs, but I also was able to have fun, memorable conversations along the way and get to know my favorite shop owners.

What advice do you have for students returning from abroad?
Don't let that experience be the only one you can draw on from an international perspective. Plan more! Continue to travel and learn about other languages and cultures! And keep in touch with the friends you made - you never know when that connection might be beneficial down the road! 

It will likely be tough when you first return home, many of your friends and family might not completely understand or be able to empathize with the experience you've just had. But re-socializing will happen naturally, and soon those relationships will feel easy again. Falling back in to step with your life at home doesn't mean you've forgotten about your study abroad experience either - don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Interview conducted via email August 2017.
Drop in conversation gathering over drinks and snacks. Make new friends from around the world. Catch up with other study abroad returnees. Practice a language. Learn about different cultures. Build connections.
Thursday, February 1 (4:30 - 6 p.m.)
Located in MSC Lunge, Red Gym, 2nd Floor 

Co-Sponsored by the Morgridge Center For Public Service and SuccessWorks at the College of Letters and Science

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
3:00 – 6:00pm
Union South
  • Open to all majors across all Schools and Colleges
  • Open to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate-level students
  • Employers Attending - updated regularly
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
4:00-8:00 pm
Kohl Center
  • Open to all enrolled UW-Madison students and recent alumni across all Schools and Colleges
  • “The Fairs App” will return this Spring for full UW-Madison on-the-go Fair info (Downloadable via Google Play & App Store)
  • Companies Attending - updated regularly
Turning Your Travels Into Marketable Job Skills - "As interesting as I thought my experiences were, I was having a hard time finding a job…especially the kind of job that I wanted. At the time, I thought that what I needed was more experience, but looking back, I realize that wasn’t quite my issue. Rather, it was more about how I was presenting my experiences to potential employers."

15 Important Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Job Abroad - Considerations for evaluating employment opportunities abroad.
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