Eau Claire sends most students abroad

Story by Briana Gruenewald

Junior Kelli Basa’s list of criteria when choosing her four-year college included whether it was affordable enough to support her desire to study abroad. UW-Eau Claire fit that standard and she studied in Lismore, Australia from July to October 2010.

“It was so much fun,” she said. “I met so many different people from … all around the United States, all around the world.”

The 2010 Open Doors Report, conducted by the Institute for International Education, revealed last week that among master’s level universities in Wisconsin, Eau Claire sends the most students on mid-length study abroad programs.

Ranking sixth nationally among all master’s-level institutions, Eau Claire is the only Wisconsin school – public or private – on the top-20 list of master’s-level schools that send students on mid-length programs.

The Center for International Education director Karl Markgraf and students who have studied abroad in the past agree that reasons for this include Eau Claire’s promotion of the study abroad programs in nearly 30 countries, ample available resources and the ease of credit transfer.

“The most important piece is the academic component because the first word in study abroad is study,” Markgraf said. “We’re very committed to students being able to have a study abroad experience that keeps them on track and helps them complete their degree in a timely manner.”

Senior Marian Mellen studied abroad her entire junior year. She spent the fall 2009 semester in Valladolid, Spain and the spring 2010 semester in Queretaro, Mexico. Mellen was not surprised at all to find out about the Open Doors results.

“Eau Claire is really awesome at getting the word out to students,” she said. “The Center for International Education is really awesome with their (study abroad) fairs and really having the best resources.”

One of the resources the CIE offers is employing peer advisors each semester for all study abroad programs and recruiting students to give presentations in classrooms. Mellen found past study abroad students to be the most helpful resource when she was applying for her study abroad programs.

“Anyone who goes abroad is going to come back with tons of memories and stories and life-changing moments,” she said. “They make people realize that incredibly, one hundred percent, it is the place to go and the thing to do.”

While Basa was abroad, one of her Canadian friends was the first from her university to study in Lismore. She was confused about what classes to take and how they would transfer. Basa said credit transfer was never a concern for her.

“We have an entire pamphlet of courses that are going to transfer, courses people have taken and what department chairs have said about the different courses,” she said.

Mellen and Basa agree that the CIE’s organization and dedication to providing information are the key strengths of Eau Claire’s study abroad program.

“You can tell the CIE is here to make everyone’s experiences as great as they can be,” Basa said. “They work so hard to make sure that we know what’s going on and feel comfortable going to do something that’s so out of our element.”

Markgraf said the CIE is constantly trying to assess each program and make improvements.

“The biggest drive for us continues to be to expand the curriculum integration,” he said. “We want to make study abroad more accessible to more students.”