UTSA students break from the states


Alexander Poe

During Teach and Learn Korea (TaLK) participants spend their free time exploring South Korea at the peak of its cherry blossom season. Photo courtesy of Alex Poe

Isaac Serna

Select UTSA students will not begin their Spring 2017 semester on campus. Instead, their studies will be in Italy, Germany, South Korea and other countries.

According to NAFSA data, 1.5 percent of U.S. students in higher education participate in study abroad programs. Nationally, student participation has increased, and UTSA aims to facilitate the opportunity to more students.

COLFA Semester Abroad program leader Dr. Bridget Drinka is a member of the faculty facilitating the Urbino, Italy trip. Drinka and participating students will leave for Italy Jan. 26.

“I would reassure students it’s a great time to study abroad and broaden your own horizons,” Drinka said. “I really regard programs like the COLFA semester in Urbino as providing students with a grassroots understanding of international relations that will last them a lifetime.”

Study abroad programs are more than a change of scenery. Student perceptions of the world develop from personal experiences during their studies abroad.

Drinka recounts an example: “When one young woman broke her arm a few years back, she didn’t have to pay anything for her treatment. That student, and all her peers, learned about Italian socialized medicine on a personal level and came away with a very positive attitude about how Italy treats foreigners.”

Opportunities for UTSA students to travel abroad vary; some provide money instead of school credits.

Particular countries employ and invest in UTSA students, especially those in rural areas aiming to increase their presence in the global economy.

Students are recruited through study abroad programs such as Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) because of a high demand for English speakers to teach.

Interacting with locals abroad is an enriching experience the typical classroom can’t provide
Interacting with locals abroad is an enriching experience the typical classroom can’t provide. Photo courtesy of UTSA Education Abroad Services

“When the opportunity for the TaLK program arose, I applied,” Alex Poe, a junior English major, said. “In my head, I knew I would never be chosen.”

Poe had no university degree, certification, prior experience or knowledge about South Korea or its language.

“I had never even tried Korean food before my first day there,” Poe admits, “but to my pleasant surprise, they liked my sense of adventure and my willingness to truly learn about the culture and language.”

UTSA and other third-party study abroad programs promote the chance for students to learn, build a resume and discover their place in the world.

After graduation, Poe plans to teach in Japan. He said his experience abroad shaped his path and made a big world seem a lot smaller.