AU Study Abroad: expanding world experience outside of the classroom

Bree Gannon

As classes came to a close at the beginning of May, most students were packing their bags to move out of their dorm but some were packing their bags to begin new adventures. This summer, students had the option to explore the world in places such as Costa Rica, Spain and Israel, all while earning school credit.

Students who participated in the study abroad program over the summer had the option of choosing from nine different countries around the globe. Through the program, students are able to learn, understand and witness first-hand different cultures and history from around the world.

The study abroad program can take place over spring break, the summer or during the semester and is available in every major. The program can count toward internships and even core credit.

According to the Director of Study Abroad Rebecca Parillo, many students do not think they can afford a study abroad experience or they can not fit it into their academic schedule.

“There are so many options available,” Parillo said. “We have grant money that can help with costs.”

The study abroad coordinators can help students find additional grants, financial aid and scholarships to help cover any additional cost of participation.

Senior Brianna Sargent had the opportunity to travel through two different study abroad programs. Her first trip was with the AU Passages to Israel where she did a 10-hour study tour of the culture, history and Christian roots in Israel.

“The best part about that trip was seeing what was essentially the center of the world for thousands of years continuing to flourish while being situated in the middles of a dessert in an area torn apart by war and conflict,” Sargent said.

Sargent also participated in the AU in France program and spent six weeks learning French in a French program at the school IFAPLES. She was also able to explore Paris and experience the art and history of the nation. Sargent also said she was able to celebrate French style after the winning of the World Cup and witnessed the Tour de France and the 14 de Juillet, also known as Bastille Day.

About 9,000 miles away, Sophi Cudworth was experiencing the Korean manners during her study abroad trip to Seoul and Busan, South Korea.

“I think one of the best things that I gained from this experience was definitely the friends that I made,” Cudworth said. “I made so many friends from all over the world and I would not trade any of them for anything.

Cudworth spent her time in South Korea learning taekwondo, attending cooking classes, learning calligraphy and going to ohyukdo, a skywalk located in Yongho-dong Nam-gu in Busan.

Elizabeth Grim, a junior education major, spent her summer in Costa Rica where she learned Spanish and the culture of Costa Rica. Grim said she was put into classes of no more than four students and she was able to get to know the teachers and other students on a personal level.

Grim also attended biology labs and learned about the different species of both animals and plants found in Costa Rica. Being an education major, she was also able to observe several elementary classes to find different strategies for teaching Spanish.

“The most important thing I took away from the trip was to have confidence in my Spanish,” Grim said. “All of the teachers are very accepting and truly want to see you improve your knowledge of the language.”

Sophomore Alena Gemelas, also spent part of her summer in Costa Rica. The learning she encountered in developing her Spanish skills was part of her experience but her favorite part was the excursions she went on.

Her favorite excursion was paddling boarding with light up paddle boards at night because she got to see the wildlife and explained it as a once in a lifetime experience.

Mollie Walters also said her favorite part of her study abroad experience was exploring the islands of Taiwan. Walters completed the COBE in Taiwan trip and spent her time learning the culture and exploring the natural beauty of the island around her.

The biggest lesson she took from her trip was to step out of her comfort zone and explore the world beyond Ashland.

“The biggest lesson I learned was that I should never have been afraid to leave the comfort of familiarity,” Walters said. “Before this trip I had never been outside of the United States, or even much further west than Illinois but now I am ready to see and learn as much as I can.”

To start the process of a study abroad journey, students can visit the website and look at an interactive map of the pre-approved and AU study abroad programs. Students are also encouraged to make an appointment with Parillo or the Study Abroad Coordinator Jake Moss.

“If anyone gets the chance to study abroad, do it,” Cudworth said. “It was the best experience of my life and I really really want to do it again.”

In order to be eligible for study abroad, students must have a GPA of at least 2.5, be 18 years or older by the date of the trip and be in good judicial and financial standing with the university.

If you are interested in studying abroad you can visit the Study Abroad Office in 211 Bixler or visit the website at