Studying abroad brings experience and independence



Katie Ranshaw, a senior communication sciences disorder major, had just gotten out of the shower where she washed her hair with soap and then proceeded to brush it with a fork.

“It was my third night in Rome, my roommate still hadn’t moved in, I didn’t have any of my luggage yet,” she said. “I knew very limited Italian so I couldn’t get anywhere, I didn’t know where I was, and I didn’t have any Internet.”

This experience gave her a glimpse into what it is like to have a communications disorder: knowing what she wanted to say and what she needed, but not being able to express it.

Becoming more independent, learning about new cultures, and seeking adventure seems to be a common answer when students were asked why they wanted to study abroad, but it is those unexpected moments of clarity, like the one Ranshaw had, that put Butler’s study abroad program above other universities.

Ranshaw said Butler gave her a certain mindset that allowed her to connect her study abroad experiences with what she had been studying before she left. This has helped to confirm what she had planned on doing for the rest of her life.

Butler University’s study abroad program was ranked ninth in the nation by Best College Reviews.

The schools were chosen by the following four criteria: The program has to be limited to 500 students or less, has to be at least a semester long, faculty from the university has to be involved with students abroad, and the university has to have a specific location internationally rather than enrolling at an international university.

Butler offers over 200 other study abroad programs, as well as the GALA program. With the variety of programs comes a variety of experiences.

While Ranshaw chose to study in Rome so she could travel easily on the weekends, junior Ellie Gabriel just returned from her fall semester in Wroclaw, Poland.

Gabriel said she wanted to go somewhere that was less of a monumental city. Poland showed her that there is a lot more to the world besides Indianapolis.

Both Gabriel and Ranshaw were the only Butler students within their respective study abroad programs, forcing them outside their comfort zone. “Things that used to be like mountains before [at home] are not even a big deal anymore,” Ranshaw said.

Jill McKinney, associate director for the Center for Global Education, said that there is not a single program that is going to be the right fit for every student, which is why they offer so many programs on their approved list.

Mckinney explained that students generally feel supported by the faculty and staff to study abroad.

“[Butler] did a really good job having meetings beforehand and checking in on you,” Ranshaw said. 

“I think the beauty of Butler being such a small school is that they do keep track of you and I don’t feel like even though I was miles and miles away,” Ranshaw said. “I hadn’t fallen through any cracks.”

Even before students hop on the plane and head towards their destinations, Butler faculty and staff guide the students in what they believe to be the right direction. “Butler makes the application process simple and easy,” Gabriel said.

Junior Kathryn Voelker plans on studying abroad in France this coming fall.

“I’m passionate about studying wine, and France is one of the top wine producing countries, so that will hopefully help me career-wise getting my foot in the door,” Voelker said.

Voelker’s aspirations fit into Butler’s mission, called Butler 2020, which outline the school’s top priorities. One of those aligning with the experiences gained from studying abroad.

“The institution has recognized that graduates need to be aware and competent in global matters to succeed in future jobs; and study abroad is one of the most effective ways in achieving this goal,” McKinney said.

McKinney, having studied abroad in college, said there are many benefits to the program. Students returning from studying abroad said that they are more confident in themselves, academically, and regarding their future profession.

“In truth, the study abroad experience is so impactful that the lessons from it unfold for many years afterwards,” she said. “I think I can best sum it up by saying that studying abroad could be the single most capacity-building experience in the college years.”